The Circus

The Circus

19 December 2012

What is it about those major stores in Bath?  Why do they refuse to cater for the older generation?  Bath's population is, as elsewhere world-wide, AGEING.  But look for a chair anywhere throughout the premises of  Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser, Waitrose etc. and you will find nothing to sit on, no matter how disabled, tired or ill you happen to feel.

"Use the restaurant!" You will be instructed should you dare ask for a chair.  And as the restuarant is usually miles away and probably on the next floor, it is simply too far for your poor old legs or, in the case of many shoppers, your newly-replaced hip or knee,  to cope with.

If major department stores hope to counteract the effect of shopping on line, they need to sharpen up their services to the older and often more affluent generation.  They should aim to turn their premises into entertainment centres for people of all ages, offering special exhibitions, events, presentations to amuse and attract people into their stores and then GIVE THEM CHAIRS TO SIT ON while making expensive purchases.

I am currently working on my next novel, a family saga set in the early 19th C and concerning people involved in the South Sea Whaling industry.    Some years ago I received  generous financial funding from the Australian Literature Board which enabled me to spend considerable time in institutions in Australia and the UK researching primary sources relating to whaling.  I drafted the novel at that point, ran out of money and had to turn to writing something more profitable.    Now, I have the time to complete the work on whaling.  All my  original research material for this work is currently stored in the archives section of the National Library of Australia and is available on request.

7 July 2012

Today a third assistant came with Molly Maids to clean the house.  Usually there are two, always the same team and one, as you will know if you have been reading my earlier account of Mrs Gainsborough’s life here in No. 17, is clearly a favourite of Gainsborough’s ghost because he arrives to greet her, and disappears as soon as she leaves the house.

This morning, as she entered the room that used to be his studio the ghost, in his usual form of an unpleasant odour, was there.  The new member of the team entered the room, sniffed the air and came running downstairs to tell me that “that smell” sent her back to pre-school days when she used the glue pot with the brush fixed to the lid to paste pictures onto paper.  Unwittingly, she confirmed the opinion of my friend the former director of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery who said, when he first smelled it, that the odour reminded him of the glue 18th C artists used to size their canvases before they applied paint.

When I went upstairs a moment ago Mr Gainsborough was still there.  Will he leave as usual when the Molly Maids depart?  

LATER:   Yes.  He did.

Pp. 384-388

                                                EPILOGUE CONTINUED

David Tyler describes the final years of the Gainsborough sisters in a paper published in the Gainsborough House Society's Annual Report 1991/2, pp. 50 - 66.  The following information is the result of his research.

After their mother's death Mary and Margaret lived at several addresses in London before settling in Acton, Middlesex, then a small village close to London.  There they became friendly with the Briggs family, who appear to have exerted a strong infuence on them.  Mary, now 56 and Margaret, 55, lived in a handsome detached house with a small garden at the rear complete with stable and coach house.  The interior of the house was enhanced by a display of their father's valuable collection of  paintings and drawings.  The house was owned by the Briggs family and rented to the sisters for £30 per annum  from 1806 until sometime before June 1821.  It was demolished in about 1885.

This house as described by contemporary accounts indicates a comfortable life lived there by the Gainsborough women.  However, as David Tyler points out, the premises were used by the Briggs family for their soap-making business in the late 1790s and although Briggs sold it on, it appears that the original business most likely continued in the outbuildings after the Gainsbrough daughters moved in.  Soap-making was an  unbelievably  unpleasant, stinking and dirty process, leaving an ever-present odour pervading the area  which was difficult to ignore.

In fact Mary and Margaret's life in Acton must have been  a miserable experience compared to their earlier days at 17 The Circus where, as their father claimed, they spent their days drinking tea, dancing and husband-hunting.  In the years they lived with their parents in London, they were present when the King and Queen occasionally called to see the artist's latest work.  Now with an odorous soap factory operating in the backyard, an old friend from Ipswich visited them and described Margaret as being "odd" and Mary as "quite deranged."

In 1806, the year in which the girls became tenants, Henry Briggs the younger was a teenager, just 19 years old..  There is some evidence to indicate that in spite of the age difference Henry and Margaret, then a mature 55, were engaged to be married.   Briggs' descendants believed they intended to marry but failed to do so because Margaret began to show signs of Mary's increasingly obvious mental condition.

David Tyler describes how Margaret (by this time taking charge of their joint interests because Mary was incapable of doing so) drew up a Deed of Gift, leaving the ownership of Gainsborough's valuable paintings and drawings to their landlord, Henry Briggs the younger.  From time to time this young man was desperately short of money for no apparent reason.  The obvious question arises:  was his engagement to the woman thirty-five years his senior a love match or a wily move to relieve financial pressures?  Whatever the situation, the Briggs family inherited the bulk of the Gainsborough estate, although Margaret did leave a few of the family portraits to three of her cousins.

A lock of Gainsborough's light brown hair left in the hands of Briggs' descendants is now on loan to Gainsborough's House in Sudbury.

Margaret junior died there in Acton and was buried at St Mary's Hanwell on 29 December 1820.  Some historians believe she might have taken her own life after her planned marraige failed to take place.   After her sister's death Mary  was taken back to London to live with relatives in Dartmouth Row iin Blackheath,  until her death on 2 July 1826.  Her body was returned to be buried next to her sister.  Together they lie in a tomb at St Mary's Church Hanwell in Middlesex.

The End
The End

  [Original cartoon by Elissa Kelly]

Pp. 380-383

                                                  EPILOGUE CONTINUED

In the years before Gainsborough died he was recognized as the official portrait painter at Court and occasionally King George and Queen Charlotte called on the family at their London home to view his paintings exhibited there.

Gainsborough now moved in exalted circles as a favourite of theKing and Court.  There is, however, little to indicate that his wife was comfortable in her life at the grand address in Pall Mall.   Art historian Professor W Vaughan, writing in 2002, could not find any evidence that Margaret participated in the life of the fashionable world inhabited by her husband.

There were, perhaps, two major reasons for this:  Margaret was proud of her ancestral bloodline, but as an illegitimate female married to a working artist she would not necessarily be accepted in society.  Her daughters, as mentioned earlier, could never have been recognized as "ladies" by their Georgian contemporaries.  In addition she had another problem: Margaret Gainsborough had to act as chaperone to her two ageing daughters, one a spinster and the other married but separated and sadly descending into madness while Margaret junior was becoming noticeably more eccentric as she aged.  Life for their mother, now in her fifties, was challenging.

Gainsborough became ill and died in 1788.   After his death a growth in his neck was discovered to be cancerous, obstructing vital passages, and was declared incurable.

In his Will the artist dealt unusually harshly with his nephew, Dupont Gainsborough, reports David Tyler, leaving the impression that the relationship had been less than harmonious although Dupont had lived with the family from infancy.  Dupont was diffident and modest, but stubborn.  He continued to live with Margaret and her daughters after Gainsborough's death until the lease of the house in Pall Mall expired in 1793.  Margaret and her daughters moved to live at 63 Sloane Square, a corner house on the south side of Hans Street, and at this point Dupon left  them to live elsewhere in London.  He died in 1797 aged 42.

Margaret remained in the house in Sloane Square until she died there, aged seventy.  Her death was announced in The Times on 22 December 1798.  She was laid to rest beside her husband and  his nephew Dupont, next toG ainsborough's old friend Kirby (Thomas had expressed his wish to be buried beside him) in a tomb on the south side of the Chapel of St Anne at Kew Green, in the Burying Ground.

Pp. 375-379


Once the Gainsboroughs were  settled in their new premises in Schomberg House in London's most sought after area, they discovered a neighbour was to be none other than the notorious 18th C sex therapist, Dr James Graham who, in 1781 set up his Temple of Hymen next door.  There he installed his  newly-built 'celestial' bed, a massive electrified structure measuring 12 feet by 9 feet, destined to be occupied by the rich and famous seeking the remarkable doctor's cures (or thrills) for problems of a sexual nature.

Dr Graham hired a pretty young woman called Emma Lyon to play the Goddess of Health in his establishment and she,  the Gainsborough's neighbour,     became painter Romney's most desired model and later achieved world fame as the seductive Lady Hamilton, mistress of Lord Nelson.   Max  Rothschild believed that the artist and his wife and daughters must have met her, writing that she might have sat for the picure of "Musidora" in the National Gallery, which Rothschild claims to be one of the very rare attempts at the nude which Gainsborough is known to have made.

Gainsborough might have been  affected by the economic downturn immediately after the move to London, but he opened his studio to anyone willing to pay his fee, however disagreeable he might have thought the sitter, and things began to improve.

By 1778 he had sufficient means to purchase a fashionable coach to the delight of Margaret and her daughters, employed a coachman as well as his footman plus the female indoor staff and Dupont Gainsborough as an apprentice.  At the same time he enlarged his premises in Pall Mall by building extra studio space and later bought a property on Richmond Hill and possibly a cottage in Essex.

In 1777 he had been  commissioned to paint portraits of the royal family which increased his affluence and his influence (but failed to get him the longed for knighthood) and after an absence of some years following a disagreement with the Trustees he exhibited some exceptional masterpieces at the Royal Academy. 

Two years earlier he had written to his sister, Mary Gibbon, telling her he was living in relative luxury at a cost of about £1000 per year.  He  complained that his wife was "weak but good" and criticized her for doing little to make him happy, at the same time admitting that he knows she will never change in this respect.  Margaret junior was a good, sensible girl he wrote, but she could be insolent at times.  On the other hand Mary, prior to her marriage to Fischer the musician, was  playing sly tricks behind her parents' backs by communicating with Fischer against their wishes.  Thomas and Margaret were openly quarrelling about money at this time, Margaret, he complained to his sister, was trying to "govern" him.

Sadly, Gainsborough family matters became increasingly worrying, with deaths occurring in the Sudbury branch, followed by deep concern caused by the unfortunate marriage of daughter Mary to Fischer, a union which the parents bitterly opposed and which faced problems from the start, largely because of Mary's mental state.  The marriage ended after six months when Mary returned to live with her parents and her sister.


18th C/21st C

So today we glimpse the last of Margaret Gainsborough and her daughters, dressed in travelling cloaks, leaving through the front door of No. 17 The Circus, setting foot in the coach which is to whisk them away in a clatter of horses' hooves over the stone cobbles and off to their new life in fashionable Pall Mall, and out of my life forever.

 BUT....the cleaners, Molly Maids, were here on Tuesday and Gainsborough's ghost, in the form of the unpleasant fishy  odour of the    glue used  by artists to seal their canvases in the 18th C appeared upstairs in his old studio as soon as they entered the room, remaining there until they left two hours later...

Pp 368-373

18th C

The year 1774 was to prove most significant in the lives of all members of the Thomas Gainsborough family.  In March that year Thomas requested a friend in London to select for him an expensive item, a harpsichord, from the famous maker, Broadwood, and have it delivered to 17 The Circus.  This proved to be an odd and costly request because just a few weeks later he made a totally  unexpected decision to leave Bath and move the entire family, studio and household to London, including the Broadwood instrument which had to be sent back along the London Road to its new home, the west wing of Schomberg House, a mansion standing at an impresive address in Pall Mall where the artist had taken tenancy from midsummer that year and where the family remained until Gainsborough's death.

The decision to move was made incredibly swiftly and historians have argued over the reason for it.  The painter known as Wright of Derby moved to Bath shortly after the family departed and he commented in February 1775 that he had heard it said that the demand for portraits in both London and Bath was drying up and that was the reason Gainsborough decided to move to the larger city.

One of Gainsborough's later biographers, Jack Lindsay, believed the reason for the move might have been that the artist enjoyed his illicit plesures so much that he felt he would more easily escape the eagle eye of his wife in the greater sprawl of London.  But Philip Thickness, often an unrustworthy source, maintained that his friend left Bath for London because of a quarrel over a musical instrument  and this appears to be the real reason for the move:  a serious quarrel which occurred between Philip Thickness, his wife and Gainsborough.

Thickness wrote a full account of what occurred from his point of view and Thomas Gainsborough's direct descendants contacted in the 1850s also believed that their ancestor's decision to move to London was influenced by this dispute.

Philip Thickness was a difficult and quarrelsome man who throughout his life fell out with most of his friends and acquaintances.  His relationship with Gainsborough had begun many years earlier in Ipswich.  He claimed that he was responsible for the artist's decision to move to Bath and Thickness made it clear that he firmly believed that he was therefore responsible for the artist's subsequent success.

Gainsborough, however, found him difficult, often testy and irritating, but the friendship endured, in spite of the older man's intense dislike of Margaret.    At times Thickness was a burden to Gainsborough who, after this serious quarrel, appears to have been relieved to a certain extent, having rid himself of this old-man-of-the-sea who had clung to his back for so many years.

The subject of the quarrel was a serious dispute over the purchase by the artist of a rare and valuable musical instrument, a viola da gamba, the property of the beautiful Mrs Thickness whose charming portrait Gainsborough had painted some years earlier.  The terms of the sale involved the sum  of £100 and/or the promise of a portrait of Thickness to be painted by Thomas.  The painting was barely started and never finished and the payment was disputed by all three former friends.  The two men later corresponded on fairly friendly terms but the painful incident was never forgotten.

Whatever the reason for Gainsborough's decision to move to London it was made instantly and swiftly carried out in the late summer or early autumn of 1774.


18TH C

Gainsborough was a deeply moral and religious man according to art historian John Hayes.  He was a Christian who trusted in Divine Providence and Mercy.  In his later years in Bath he attended Church of England services regularly.

In 1773 Gainsborough painted the portait of the popular preacher Dr. William Dodd.  This painting was exhibited in his exhibition room on the first floor of this house to coincide with the grand opening of the newly-built Margaret Chapel, presided over by the flamboyant figure of the doctor.

The chapel was erected in Margaret Buildings situated off Brock Street, between The Circus and the Royal Crescent.  It pleased Gainsborough so much that he informed Dodd that he intended to visit it frequently.  The building was one of several chapels erected in Bath in the last quarter of the 18th C and its official opening on 3 October 1773 was a major social event.  Gainsborough made the most of it by featuring his portait of the preacher at No. 17, just round the corner, to the benefit of both men, and it was publicized accordingly.

Mrs Dodd, who was an unlikely partner to this highly popular well-educated parson, was so pleased with Gainsborough's depiction of her famous husband that she sent Margaret the gift of an expensive silk gown from London.  Gainsborough personally wrote a thank you note as his wife was indisposed at the time.  The artist was pleased with this portrait too  and he told the Dodds that ladies who came to the house to see it also approved.  He knew this, he confided, because he hovered outside the door of his exhibition room and then peeped through the keyhole to listen to their remarks.  One woman, he claimed, commented that Dr Dodd had such a lively eye!

William Dodd was a colourful figure who dressed imaginatively.  Born in Lincolnshire, a vicar's son, he proved to be an academic success at Cambridge and then moved to London where he became a highly popular preacher in various churches and because of his extravagant lifestyle and his love of fine clothes he was known affectionately as the "Macaroni Parson."  Soon heavily in debt he made an impulsive marriage to Mary Perkins, daughter of a domestic servant, a woman of low birth who brought nothing in the way of a dowry to her husband, a match that further damaged his alarming financial situation.

In spite of his success and popularity as a preacher he was living on borrowed time when fortune favoured him:  he won £1000 in a lottery.  This sum (a huge amount at the time) brought him financial relief for a short time but he continued his extravagant lifestyle and debt piled up again to the point where, in 1774, he tried to bribe his way into a lucrative position as rector at the wealthy Church of St George's, Hanover Square in London.

His action was discovered and he was dismissed from his church posts.  He was publicly ridiculed as the scandal of his bribery spread in the year the Gainsboroughs moved to live in London.  They saw their friend the preacher flee to Europe to escape the indignity he faced in the capital.   He remained abroad for two years until the gossip subsided, returning to London in 1776.  Ever the survivor, he immediately resumed his most extravagant lifestyle, again incurring huge debts.

In an effort  clear them he made a fatal lmistake:  he forged a bond for a huge sum, £4,200, in the name of his former pupil, the Earl of Chesterfield.  In good faith a banker accepted the bond and lent Dodd the money.   Later, a small ink blot in the text of the bond was noted.  The document was re-written and presented to the Earl to sign in order to replace the inferior original.  The forgery was discovered.   Dodd immediately confessed, begging for time to repay the debt.   This request was refused.  Dodd was imprisoned pending trial.  He was convicted and sentenced to death.

There was an immediate outcry at the severity of the sentence.  No less than 23,000 people signed a petition seeking a pardon for the popular "Macaroni Parson," friend of Thomas Gainsborough and a man supported by many other famous 18th C figures, including Dr Samuel Johnson who personally wrote several papers in his defence.  The Law Lords were not swayed.

William Dodd was hanged in public at Tyburn on 27 June 1777.  Was Gainsborough, I wonder, standing among the crowd to see his friend face the gallows?

Pp 359-361

18th C

At forty-six and not in the best of health herself, Margaret had to cope with this husband of hers, currently moody and depressed.  She was always concerned about his health as he was never robust.  She agonized over his generous nature, seriously concerned that he would give away his last penny without a thought for his family's future.  Philip Thickness, her enemy, nevertheless agreed with her, commenting that Gainsborough was notably over-generous to friends in need.   He would, he commented, have died a much richer fellow had he been a more "worldly-minded" man.

The Gainsboroughs' attitude to money caused constant strife between them.  He was notoriously generous to all and sundry.  Margaret veered in the opposite direction, gaining a widespread reputation for her constant nagging about money or the lack of it.  As well, Margaret had to cope with Gainsborough's moodiness:  he could be a charming, intelligent, amusing companion to his friends.  At other times he exhibited another less attractive side of his character:  irritability and a certain sarcastic severity of manner.

Margaret tolerated his indiscretions with prostitutes because she had no option, and she berated him for his long and often unexpected absences from home.  He, on his part, had to put up with her constant nagging about money while his friends openly tormented him for being a hen-pecked husband.  There can be no doubt at all that Margaret held the purse strings close throughout their marriage, allowing her husband a strictly controlled sum for pocket money in these later years, demanding close scrutiny of the professional fees t paid for his highly lucrative portraits.  Clearly, from the family's point of view, this was necessary.  As Thickness rightly pointed out the Gainsboroughs would have been bankrupt had Thomasvbeen permitted to live as generously as he wished without restriction.

At this time, 1773-4, the Gainsborough's main private family concern was the mental state of their elder daughter Mary whose behaviour was becoming increasingly odd.  They were aware that her condition was likely to deteriorate in future and financial provision for her for life was essential.  The younger daughter Margaret was  lively, demanding and headstrong but so far unaffected by the disease affecting her sister.


18th C

Gainsborough exhibited an ambiguous attitude to the aristocracy.  He claimed to hate them as fools on one hand, but claimed close friendships with various titled men on the other.  George Pitt, the first Lord Rivers, he described as a staunch friend.  In the late 1760s he was invited to stay at Pitt's country house for, he understood, a night or two.   When he arrived his host was about to leave for Spain but pressed the artist to remain and in his absence paint a couple of family portraits.  To his consternation Gainsborough found himself detained at the house for three months, leaving an indignant Margaret to cope alone at home in The Circus.

In Pitt's absence Gainsborough was required to paint portraits of Pitt's daughter and son-in-law, Lord and Lady Ligonier, and he did so, creating a pair of portraits clearly designed to hang either side of a fireplace.

The lady, however, was playing away from home, a situation reflected in the manner in which Gainsborough, quite unaware of her adultery, composed the portaits, picking up on the tension between the two and depicting the married couple as separate entities, clearly not responding to each other.

Later it transpired that Penelope Ligonier had had an affair with her groom, spurned him in favour of a certain Count Alfieri, upon which the humble man from the stable block, determined on revenge, revealed all to her husband.

Rumours of the scandal soon spread, eagerly devoured by society.  Many viewers of Gainsborough's newly finished portraits presumed he must have known of Penelope's adulterous affairs but his colleagues believed he did not:  they knew he was fully capable of accurately assessing her attitude towards her husband over the hours she sat for him.  Gainsborough was naturally intuitive.

Whatever the reason, his portraits clearly reveal the emotional distance between this husband and wife, he leaning on his horse to the left of his portrait, she leaning in the opposite direction on a pedestal to the right of her image, averting her gaze, and looking down, not at her husband.  No doubt Gainsborough returned to Bath after his unexpectedly prolonged stay in Pitt's country mansion with some juicy gossip to entertain Margaret and perhaps to compensate for his lengthy absence.

Pp 349-352

Henry Angelo claimed that at Gainsborough's house in Pall Mall a little later the painter told him he detested painting portraits and disliked the gentry who paid for them.   He added that trying to produce something representing a human resemblance from these blockheads was so demanding a process it was enough to cause a saint to cut his own throat with his own palette knife.

The 4th Duke of Bedford was one of Gainsborough's neighbours, living in the same south-facing segment of The Circus but the painter claimed he had no time for gentlemen of the upper classes who expected him to kow-tow to them.

Philip Thickness said Gainsborough knew how to think and act as a  gentleman in spite of his background, and had nothing but contempt for those who dared to treat him in any other way.  Soon after moving into No. 17 he employed "my man" to answer the bell at the front door.  If gentlemen callers wanted to inspect paintings in the exhibition room on the first floor an entrance fee of a shilling was pocketed and  the visitor was  politely shown upstairs.   But should they ask to see Gainsborough, his servant had to clarify the situation:  if the caller was a potential sitter and enquired about a portrait, he was intrdouced to the painter.  If he simply wanted to meet the artist, to see him "bow and scrape," he was crisply informed that Mr Gainsborough was not at home.   However, Gainsborough made it clear in a letter to a friend that should a handsome lady call at the house an entirely different welcome awaited her.  The exact nature of this welcome is not known but might be guessed at as the recipient of the letter blacked out the bawdy remarks that followed.

At the age of 47 Gainsborough was chafing at the bit:  he was restless, hated being tied to the routine business of painting portraits in order  to keep the household running.  He was longing, he wrote to a friend, to be done with domestic restraints, imagining a life of freedom in a little village in the countryside where he could live, play his beloved musical instruments and amuse himself by painting landscapes.   He  abhorred his current life of demanding social commitments forced upon him by his wife and daughters, intent on attendingttea parties, dancing and "husband huntings."  He was doubtful of the successful outcome of the latter and deeply resented the domestic restrictions also forced upon him.

In spite of all her endeavours to find suitable husbands for her daughters, Margaret's social activities were rarely reported in the press although Gainsborough's unusually accurate ability to capture a likeness in his sitters was recorded there in the period he was working from home here in The Circus.


18th C

Margaret Gaisnborough, now 46, faced the future as what then would be considered an elderly woman.   Her household consisted of a husband, now a famous artist at the peak of his powers, two spinster daughters approaching their mid twenties, one with mental health problems and both totally dependent on their parents for financial support.  In addition, one of Gainsborough's nieces lived with them and so did his nephew Dupont.  When the lad turned eighteen in 1772 he was formally apprenticed to Gainsborough who taught him to paint.  Under the terms of his contract Dupont's mother, Gainsborough's sister Sarah, was required to pay for his keep.  Was this clause inserted at Margaret's insistence?  Surely Gainsborough, known for his generosity, would not have required it.

A man servant was employed in the house, and there were probably at least two maids plus a washerwoman to help with domestic work.  Gainsborough must have employed additional help in the stable at the rear of the house in Circus Mews as he owned several horses at this time.

Gainsborough was not an easy man to live with in the 1770s.   In 1769 his rival Reynolds received a knighthood and in letters to influential friends from then on Gainsborough frequently reveals his longing for the same honour, which was never to be and this omission on the part of the establishment rankled.  He  first exhibited full length portraits of the King and Queen in London in 1781 and thereafter was virtually accepted as Court Painter but never, to his disgust, knighted.

One of his younger friends who frequently accompanied him on horseback as he rode round Bath described him as being irritable, severe and sarcastic at times, although warmly attached to people he liked.  Their route often took them through woods at Claverton and Warley which were favourite haunts of the artist.  He frequently spent the day there alone, sketching, sustained by a packet of bread and cheese carried in his pocket.

He was happiest in this natural environment of woodland, fields and streams.

Pp. 348

21st C
The west country is drowning, nothing but rain, steely grey skies and blustering winds for the past two weeks.  People look glum.  The Circus is a moving mass of colourful umbrellas, half of them turning inside out in the wind, as hundreds of poor drenched tourists follow their guides round the circle of houses, then march up Brock Street to view a soggy Royal Crescent, never at its best seen in heavy rain and howling gales.

But the following incident cheered me up:  
A listener rang the Bristol BBC radio station to report he thought he had been so lucky when informed by a charity that he had won first prize in a raffle.  When the box arrived it contained  material for a make -it- yourself garden gnome. “The worst of it was,” the caller added wistfully, “All the rest of the  prizes were bottles of wine!”

Pp 347

21st C

Reading the latest edition of the Bath Chronicle I loved this headline:


20 MONTH OLD CHILD NEEDED HELP FROM THE FIRE BRIGADE AFTER HE GOT A CAKE TIN STUCK AROUND HIS NECK. Avon Fire and Rescue were called to St Saviours Road in Larkhall last week. The boy had been playing with the tin, putting it on his head, when the removeable bottom came free and the circular tin became stuck around his neck. Firefighters had to use small cutting equipment to free the tin. "

I had a delightful short break in Weymouth last week as far as sunny weather is concerned but oh the hotel room! The size of a dog-kennel. I have never before seen such a tiny space in any hotel. I had paid a supplement for a sea view but the window was a narrow slit so high up in the wall you had to stand up to see out of it. Made a fuss and the duty manager handled the situation with tact. In spite of claiming that the hotel was fully booked (it was) he managed to locate an adequate double room with an excellent sea view for me in the sister hotel attached.

Weymouth old town harbour and seaside is delightful, but the hotels I have experienced are awful. With such a pretty unspoilt esplanade with enticing sea views it is such a pity no-one has yet opened a hotel on the front worthy of the town.


18th C

Margaret Gainsborough spent most of her life indoors. House management was time-consuming, tiring and tiresome. In winter especially, lighting and heating the house was a major issue. The nights were long and cold. Both candles and coal were worryingly expensive and to conserve both a Georgian family occupied one family room and went to bed early when not entertaining. Needlework as a means of passing long hours indoors was not to be dismissed lightly. James Boswell met the handsome Mrs Knowles in 1772. She had been an acknowledged beauty who made the mistake of marrying a humble but ambitious apothecary. Queen Charlotte was offered Mrs Knowles' fine needlework portrait of the King. Impressed, she made Mrs Knowles an amazingly generous present of £800, declaring her work to be invaluable. On seeing his wife attracting such interest at court, Apothecary Knowles immediately hurried up to Edinburgh to study for a medical degree, intent on using every opportunity his clever wife's needle offered him.

Mindful of the low level of lighting available - candles and oil lamps - we might picture the Gainsboroughs at home in this house one winter's night, settling down in the family parlour on the ground floor, Gainsborough in his wing chair by the open fire reading his newspaper, Margaret making a dent in the endless repairing of household linen or perhaps taking a moment to pick up one of her favourite journals: "Tatler" and "Spectator" were much in vogue at this time. Next to her mother Mary might be reading a book borrowed from the highly popular circulating library, her younger sister perhaps embroidering a purse for her father's birthday, whil Gainsborough's niece kneels on the rug before the fire playing with building blocks, all straining their eyes to read, work or play by the light of a candle or two; only if guests were present would a few more candles be in evidence.

As we have seen, the smooth running of the home and all domestic affairs were regarded as the sole responsiblity of the mistress of the house. In a family of the same status as the Gainsboroughs, household management could be arduous indeed, supervision of servants being one of the worst of the never-ending tasks to be performed. Widowers who were forced to take control frequently remarried rather too fast for approval for this sole reason, or persuaded an unfortunate single female relative to move in and undertake the unpaid role of housekeeper to spare themselves the endless hassle. Men were notoriously ill-equipped to control the behaviour of servants of either sex and their constant tendency to deceive their masters.

On those rare occasions when a husband sought the services of the law in dealing with the odd unfaithful wife and her lover, he often claimed additional financial compensation for the loss of his housekeeper, never mind his bedmate.

Largely confined to domestic territory in an era before women took an active part in politics or administration of the country, Margaret's contemporaries valued their homes and personal possessions in an emotional rather than a financial sense. And with age, women faced a painful loss of status. Beau Nash was less than tactful when he decreed that older ladies and children were to be relegated to obscure back row seats at any Ball they might attend in Bath as being "past or not come to perfection."


18th C

At the time Margaret arrived to take charge of No. 17 The Circus in 1766 when the walls smelled of new paint and the wooden shutters had just been fitted at the windows, she was thirty-eight years old. When Gainsborough decided to uproot the family and take them all to live in London for the rest of his life his wife was forty-six, often a difficult time for a woman facing the menopause and the fluctuations of emotional and physical change frequently experienced. Having established a life for herself in Bath over the past fifteen years it appears that Margaret might not have welcomed the move as enthusiastically as her husband.

Margaret was unusual in that she bore only three children (losing one in infancy) while the average Georgian mother produced six or seven children who survived to adulthood. The high mortality rate affecting women in childbirth meant that it was not unusual for a young expectant mother to leave a letter addressed to the newborn child in case of her death.

Childbirth was anticipated with undisguised fear by women facing their first experience, and with resigned acceptance by the experienced mother. They had no pain relief to help them through the ordeal and prior to the birth they were socially isolated for the final three months when they were confined to the home.

In one horrifying incident described by Amanda Vickery an English woman was in labour for forty-nine and a half hours and then had the ordeal of having her dead baby tgorn apart to be removed in pieces from her body.

The redoubtable Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote from Constantinople in 1718 that women there were free of the annoying habit adopted by the English to withdraw from society when noticeably pregnant and then remain at home for a month after the birth. In Turkey, she wrote, there was no shame in becoming pregnant prior to marriage, proof of fertility being regarded as a bonus. After only ten years of marriage families of twelve or thirteen children were common, with older Turkish mothers boasting of broods of twenty five or thirty, so gaining immense respect. When Lady Mary asked how these mothers expected to provide for so many, she was told that the plague was expected to kill off half of them, and usually did so.

As her family increased, so the time available for the Georgian mother to see friends and enjoy a social life decreased. Travel while pregnant and/or nursing a child was difficult, making long journeys unlikely. Methods of contraception were few and far between, consequently most fertile women spent a considerable part of their time pregnant during marriage . Margaret Gainsborough was a rare exception. Bearing ten or twelve children was not unusual, and losing some of them an ever-present fear and a common occurrence. Mothers and fathers were only too aware of the constant threat of disease which ravaged Georgian towns throughout the century. The most frightening were epidemics of typhoid, dysentery, enteric fever and smallpox prevalent in late summer until the first frosts of winter drove them away.

Gainsborough was one of these fathers who was constantly concerned for the health of his beloved daughters when faced with accounts like the following, cited by Amanda Vickery: Anne Gossip had eleven children. Four died in her arms before they were two years old. One son was stillborn, one died aged eleven and two sons died before they were twenty years old. Only one of the eleven outlived the poor mother. This unhappy story was not at all unusual and both mothers and fathers clearly suffered deeply at the loss of infants through the plethora of diseases which threatened their lives.

Even so, each newborn child meant extra expense and responsibility. One clergyman, anticipating the latest addition to his own large family joked with a friend saying he wished he could deal with superflouous children as he did with unwanted kittens: drown those he could not afford.

Gainsborough was not unusual in demonstrating his care and concern for his daughters. Georgian diaries and journals reveal the perhaps surprising fact that fathers often played an active part in childcare, taking charge when wives were away on visits, and taking their turn in the sickroom when necessary.

Many women's lives became so centered on their homes and families after marriage that they lost touch with their girl friends - something that still happens today, especially when babies arrive and the childless feel they have little in common with their former companions.

Pp 335b

21st C

Gainsborough's ghost was here again this week. No sooner had the MollyMaid team arrived to clean, entered the room Gainsborough used as his studio on the first floor overlooking the garden at the back of the house, when one of them called out: "He's here!" The strange and unpleasant smell was back. The last time it appeared was when the Molly Maid team was here a couple of weeks ago. And as soon as they left the house this week, and I came upstairs, the odour had vanished completely. Three of us had smelled the scent - it certainly isn't a matter of the imagination.

I have reason to be grateful that I live in the 21st C this week and not alongside Margaret Gainsborough in the 18th C. Eating an inoffensive egg salad at supper, one of my teeth shattered. Raced off to the dentist next day. He applied his magic and assures me he can save the tooth and there and then fixed up a temporary repair. I thanked the stars for the progress of science in my time.

Pp 329-335

18TH C

Nevertheless it is worth remembering that the ruling classes in the 18th C enjoyed almost absolute power over the lower classes,being in a position to abuse them, had they chosen to do so, without fear of the law.

Servant girls were often totally unprotected, frequently abused by male members of the family and thrown out without ceremony if they became pregnant. Girls of eleven and twelve were regularly used in brothels, no questions asked. Indeed, some of the gentlemen who patronized these establishments believed that no girl over the age of fourteen was worth paying for.

Margaret Gainsborough's deep concern about seeking a good marriage for each of her daughters is understandable. Across all levels of society at the time marriage for women was the ultimate goal, the most momentous decision of their lives, as important to the lowest ranking chambermaid as to the daughter of the house. Make a poor choice in the matter of a husband and you were stuck with him for life. Choose a potential mean sadistic bore, or a man who turned out following marriage to be an alcoholic or a wife-beater and you faced a miserable life of emotional torture or even physical pain. The reason? There was no way out for any ordinary wife and only in exceptional circustances for that of an aristocrat.

The outlook for the spinster daughters Margaret and her older sister Mary, now showing signs of the illness which was to ruin her life, was less than favourable. As we have seen earlier, Mary was to marry the musician Fischer in 1780 but that union lasted only six months before Mary returned to live with the family and remained there for the rest of her life.

Being a penniless spinster in whatever station in life meant dependence on the charity of family, as in this case, or on the generosity of wealthier friends.

Daughters were often persuaded by their mothers to favour an older suitor over a younger man who might, with age, prove to be not quite the prize envisaged. Many a presentable young fellow took to drink after marriage, often developing an uncontrollable temper. Although a romantic partnership was sought in the 18th C and was to be welcomed, a way of life boasting ownership of a coach and six was infinitely preferable to love in a thatched cottage.

As we have seen earlier there was very little for a spinster to do beyond becoming a nuisance to her relatives. If she were lucky enough to have been left a property one means of becoming independent was to take on the role of lodging-house keeper, assuming the honorary title of "Mrs" to achieve some respectability. It was possible to make a good living out of the trade, as Gainsborough's sister demonstrated.

But as far as the Gainsborough girls were concerned this was neither necessary nor acceptable. Mary by this time was incapable of taking any responsible position and Margaret appears to have inherited her mother's claim to a high-born status: she was not prepared to exhibit her prowess as a pianist in return for money, not even to please Queen Charlotte when she signalled an interest in hearing Margaret perform.

There appears to be no record of either girl actually working for a living at any point in their lives and Gainsborough was at pains to make provision for his daughters both before and after his death. Although Mary was said to be a talented draughtsman, no authenticated examples of her drawing, or of Margaret's, have survived, but just might exist among unattributed copies of their father's drawings in various collections. He certainly intended them to become proficient in drawing and it would seem likely that they might have copied his work.

All told Gainsborough painted six double portraits of his daughters and the last one, as mentioned earlier, was painted here in this house in the period 1770-1774. Interestingly, in the fifth double portrait Gainsborough depicted the girls holding portfolios of drawings.

Mary was sixteen and Margaret fifteen when they came to The Circus and they were aged twenty-four and twenty-three years when they left with their parents to live in London. In the time spent in Bath they were at the peak of their lives, being attractive young girls on arrival who matured into handsome women by the time they left, having enjoyed comfortable life with the opportunity of making many contacts in artistic circles in the famous and fashionable city. Gainsborough had a wide-ranging group of famous friends in the worlds of theatre, music and the arts who were frequent visitors to No. 17 The Circus.

Pp 324-328

18th C

As a wife and mother Margaret Gainsborough was responsible for running this large house of five floors, looking after a husband whose health was always precarious, and two girls who were quite a handful and, as they became older, the cause of considerable concern to her. In addition to her own daughters Margaret was responsible for the various young Gainsborough nephews and nieces and the students invited to join the household throughout her marriage. Add to these individuals living under her roof was the procession of lodgers who were another constant in the Gainsbor0ough's married lives, not to mention their personal friends (and their servants) who stayed as non-paying guests, often for weeks on end. And then there were the female indoor servants and later Gainsborough's manservant, all of whom had to be fed and housed, not to mention the endless laundry and general cooking and cleaning required to keep the household running.

As the wife of a celebrated artist Margaret might not have had endless free time to indulge in the niceties of social life on a personl level, however much she might have enjoyed it and, indeed, seemed to expect it as her right, given her family connections.

She had, of course. to welcome many famous individuals to her home as titled men and women of the highest degree trooped through her front door and climbed the stairs to have their portaits painted for posterity in these rooms on the first floor of No. 17 The Circus.

21st C

Speaking of which, this is odd: a team of two cleaners from the domestic cleaning service, Molly Maid, are here regularly. Gainsborough's ghost (mentioned earlier) has taken a liking to them. The awful fishy smell that indicates his presence regularly appears when they arrive, and only in the room which he used as his studio and immediately outside it on the landing. This unpleasant smell arrives suddenly, as soon as they come in the door around 10.30 am, and has gone immediaitely after they leave the house several hours later, not on every visit, but more often than not. Neither of the two women welcome his ghostly presence. Indeed, they are quite nervous about entering that room and the bathroom attached to it.

We, all three of us in the house, are aware of the strong fishy odour that comes and goes when they are here. As my friend the former director of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery says, the smell is reminiscent of the fish or bone based glue used by 18th C artists to treat their canvases before use.

But now, back to Mrs Gainsborough in the 18th C. You have only to watch a TV series recreating life at that time to get some idea of the labour-intensive methods used in kitchen and laundry to keep a household running smoothly. Margaret would personally have had to undertake much of the cooking in the kitchen in the basement, although major joints of meat were sent out to be cooked in the nearby baker's oven in Bennett Street. She would have had to order the food and often go out to market to select it. Soap and candles were extremely expensive and were often home-made to save money - a tedious procedure. Laundry matters as we have seen earlier, were a major headache to any house-keeper, requiring a constant battle to stay on top of the ever growing mountain of washing and, perhaps worse, the drying process involving the constant hanging about (especially in Georgian town houses with restricted access to outdoor space) of personal underwear, voluminous petticoats and shifts, men's shirts and other garments, let alone endless sheets and pillow cases, table cloths and napkins, towels, not to mention the time-consuming task of ironing all the frills and lace trimmings on personal attire. All this had to be achieved using a series of hot flat irons heated by the kitchen fire. The hired washing woman would undertake the laborious washing process and much of the ironing of bed linen but the indoor maids would be required to help with smaller and more personal items. Margaret would have had to organize and supervise the whole procedure and her daughters would have been required to help their mother in some of these tasks, spending more time doing so as they grew older.

As indicated earlier, a household running on the Gainsborough family's income would expect to employ at least two full-time, living-in female indoor servants and a washerwoman once or twice a week, with extra help hired as required for entertaining. By the time the family moved to London Gainsborough had taken on a full-time manservant - an expensive move.

Domestic servants were vital but often considered more trouble than they were worth. They caused upheaval in the house when they proved to be lazy or dishonest and had to be dismissed and then replaced. Coping with the servant problem in the 18th C was clearly recognized by all employers as one of the worst problems a Georgian woman faced in running her household.

Pp 319-323

18th C

So, the Gainsborough girls returned from their boarding school in London in this lcimate of change, described earlier. They were now in their late teens, at an age which placed them directly into the highly competitive marriage market. Their mother was determined to see them marry well but their father was more realistic, aware that their prospects of capturing wealthy husbands was less than promising. As well, over the next year or two, he realised that Mary was beginning to exhibit some worrying patterns of behaviour.

Gainsborough's last double portrait of his daughters was painted when the family lived here at No. 17 The Circus, between 1770 and 1774. Mary and Margaret were by then in their early twenties, still unmarried and with no evidence of becoming engaged. They are pictured standing close together, Margaret on the left, Mary's arm around her younger sister's shoulders, a faithful dog by their side. They are dressed in elegant gowns and depicted in a romantic setting, looking for all the world like ladies of leisure, which they were not: Mary was by then a talented draughtsman and Margaret an accomplished musician. Their father described them ironically as "these fine ladies" and they were keen to be seen a such, rather than to be known as women required to seek work for a living.

The hard truth was, of course, that as daughters of a working artist they were not regarded by Georgian society as "ladies" and they had no dowries worth speaking of. Gainsborough had serious doubts about his wife's ambitious desires to see them married off to wealthy husbands. Bath was the centre of the social world where suitors and scoundrels alike combed the Assembly Rooms for attractive and, most importantly, wealthy, well-born young brides. The Gainsborough girls had little chance to win this race. They were never part of the first rank in Bath society and when the family moved to London in 1774, their social aspirations were further restricted. While Gainsborough himself moved on to become Court Painter, highly regarded by the King and Queen, his wife and daughters did not rise with him and appear to have played no part in fashionable society of the day.

Sadly, with hindsight, we know that at this point in their young lives, Mary and Margaret faced a disappointing future. It was at this time, as discussed earlier, that Johann Christian Fischer made his appearance, an attractive cocky man who was fully aware of his ability to attract women. A leading oboist of the day he was a member of the Queen's Band at the Palace. Gainsborough met him in the mid 1770's after the family had moved to London, and he painted a fine portrait of the musician. While he himself got on well with Fischer, Gainsborough never trusted him as far as his daughters were concerned. But both girls were attracted to the musician. Now in their mid twenties, considered old as potential brides, Gainsborough was worried. He wrote to his sister that he tried desperately to keep Fischer away from Mary and Margaret. He kept a close eye on Margaret, the younger daughter he assumed Fischer was attracted to, but while doing so "the other sly boots" turned out to be the subject of Fischer's pursuit. Mary virtually eloped with Fischer, marrying him on 21 February 1780. She managed to persuade her mother and father to attend the wedding as witnesses, but Gaisnborough's fear that this self-centered man would never bring his daughter happiness proved correct: the marriage lasted no more than six months. Mary returned home to live with her parents and from this time her fragile mental state became increasingly obvious, finally collapsing into madness. Margaret, too, displayed a determined wilfulness which caused her parents some concern, but she was never as unstable as Mary.

Pp 313-318

In the 21st C the leisure business has flourished beyond all expectations. Paying to keep fit and entertained is a mushrooming industry today, one which was foreshadowed by a similar movement in the 18th C when healthy exercise like walking and riding (and, it must be admitted, taking a daily jaunt in a carriage) in order to keep fit was just as important to the fashionista as was the pursuit of entertainment in the form of shopping, gambling and dancing at balls in the Assembly Rooms.

For all these pleasures there was a price to pay in entry fees and similar charges and the Georgian leisure industry developed into a highly important spect of the economy of spa towns like Bath, where the fashionable who did not work for a living had endless hours to fritter away throughout the season.

Contrary to a widely held belief, women in the 18th C were fond of walking and covered what would now be considered impressive distances, tripping along in their cumbersome full-length petticoats and voluminous skirts and dainty footwear. On a country walk six or seven miles was nothing to boast about. Europeans, horrified by the large feet of the average English gentle-woman, blamed this defect on their bizarre love of walking. Then, as now, Bath's flagstoned and cobbled pavements caused many to trip and fall, and caused a lady's feet to burn through her dainty shoes. Some of the Bath belles overcame this problem by having thick cork soles applied to their street shoes.

Shopping in town was one of their greatest pleasures and the most popular time to do so in Bath was in the afternoon although shops often indulged their customers by remaining open until 10 p.m.

Domestic finance was controlled by the man of the house and while women were responsible for day to day marketing, they had to obtain permission before spending on expensive items, while being required to keep a detailed account of all household expenditure, however small the sum involved.

Occasionally a family man living in the depths of the country and visiting London or Bath might be asked to buy personal items for his wife or daughters - a lace collar, perhaps, or some ribbon for trimming a bonnet, but the result was often woefully disappointing. Women much preferred to shop for themselves and for each other.

Sometimes a milliner like Gainsborough's sister was summoned to a visitor's lodgings bringing with her a selection of goods for her customers to try on and choose from at leisure.

The normal life of a woman of means in Bath required living through an endless round of activity from morning until late at night. She might leave the house for an early morning dip in the Roman Baths, return to change, then be off again to breakfast with friends, remaining there until midday, then on to make another visit. Home to change before dining with friends at about 4 p.m., then on to an evening concet in a private house which might begin at 9 p.m. On to the Assembly Rooms to dance or play cards, finally falling into bed, but never before midnight, more often in the early hours of the morning. And this punishing regime applied to young ladies, to their parents, and to their parents, if they had the energy to stay the course.

Women made their formal brief calls in the morning and and again in the late afternoon, following family dinner at home. Invitations to a private home to take tea an hour or two after the hosts had dined were usual, when hosts and earlier guests left the dining room to join those newly arrived. There was no question of being insulted by receiving an invitation of this kind. Indeed, so active was Bath's social life that such an invitation was often more than welcome.

PP 309-312

18th C

In Bath the Spring Gardens pleasure grounds were laid out on the opposite side of the River Avon, reached by ferry from South Parade. Taking breakfast there was a popular outing.

One day the Bishop of Peterborough, John Hinchcliffe, who was in town taking the waters, invited the writer Fanny Burney and her friends the Thrales to accompany him by ferry across the river. They did so, walking through meadows tudded with wildflowers to drink tea at the Spring Gardens. Then, as a treat, the Bishop urged them to walk on to Mr Ferry's house where a surprise awaited them. A senior alderman of the City, Mr Ferry's dwelling was, rather unexpectedly, open to the public for a fee and, it transpired, contained some amusing contents. Having inspected the garden the party moved indoors where Mr Ferry himself begged them to be seated. A curtain was drawn back to reveal through a glass a three-dimensional marine view of ships, boats and water. Ferry's house maid, operating the attraction, then caused a trapdoor to open in the floor: a covered table rose magically into view. A second later a life-sized model of an eagle swooped down from the ceiling and with his formidable talons extended, whipped off an ornamental cloth to reveal a feast of cakes, sweets and jellies laid out on the table, ready for the visitors' enjoyment.

This extraordinary house of magic was called Bathwick Villa but its owner, Alderman Ferry, appears to have indulged too far in sleight of hand activities. He was dismissed in 1780 for failing to balance the books of the City's treasury.

Exhibitions and shows of all kinds were hugely popular with the Georgians and they were expensive treats. One amazing exhibition was the talk of London in March 1772, when the Gainsboroughs were living here in The Circus but occasionally visiting London. Cox's Museum in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross, won the approval of Dr Samuel Johnson and on his friend's recommendation James Boswell went to see it for himself. He was deeply impressed by the size of the mechanically driven exhibits, twenty-two of them, some standing sixteen feet tall and all emblazoned with sparkling gems.

One represented an elephant, supporting on a pedestal a carriage drawn by four golden horses, all prancing along in unison. Another carriage was pulled along by white doves flying around a temple made of mother-of-pearl. All kinds of birds and flowes made of gold and silver, amber and lapis lazuli sparkled and moved, the cleverly concealed mechanisms whirred, captivating all who saw them.

This expensive exhibition would have been seen only by the reasonably wealthy. Boswell's entry fee of half a guinea was exactly equal to half his weekly rent for his first floor rooms in central London. Half a guinea was the accepted entry fee for both the Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea and the Pantheon in Oxford Street. Both were popular places of public amusement, boasting huge new rotundas, the one in Chelsea measuring 150 feet in diameter which impressed Boswell so much he made a note of its size in his diary on 31st March 1772.

To add to the expense of entry fees to these public pleasure palaces, everyone was scrutinized so closely that both male and female visitors paid every attention to the detail of their appearances, aware that as they paraded among the exhibits everything they wore would be commented upon, every feather and every gold-braided detail stored away for gossip around the gambling tables the following day.

In Bath women of all ages were to be seen at the theatre. Fanny Burney and her friend Mrs Thrale were frequently at a performance, often deciding to go on the spur of the moment, sending out for sedan chairs to take them there and back. The Georgians, both men and women, loved too the excitement of attending the often colourful and dramatic trials held in the local law courts. The trial of Clive of India described elsewhere was the dramatic hit of the year.

Pp 305-308

18th C

When Assembly rooms and pleasure gardens were introduced to cities and spa towns young Georgian gentle-women in their late teens were permitted to walk in town and stroll through public parks and gardens with a friend, or accompanied by a servant during the day. They were allowed to travel in a similar fashion in hackney coaches without upsetting mama unduly.

There were, of course, various means by which girls like the Gainsborough daughters on their return from boarding school in London were kept aloof from the rougher elements of society in public places like the pleasure gardens and horse racing. The cost of ticketed-entry-only events required for specific attractions - charity benefis for example - held in the pleasure gardens in Bath virtually excluded the lower classes on these occasions, while maintaining the preferred status of those attending. After dark, of course, young women were closely chaperoned by family members. Nevertheless there were occasions which permitted genteel young ladies glimpses of the ways of another world which set their imaginations working. They were by no means coy in commenting (at least in their correspondence with one another) on matters of a decidedly sexual nature.

The popular pleasure gardens in London and Bath offered entertainment of all kinds: classical temples, elabrately lit set pieces employing thousands of candles and torches, magicians and clowns, acrobats, orchestras and bands playing for dancing, maybe a concert followed by supper served in decorated arbours set among the trees, all held late at night. In London when the Gainsborough family moved there in 1774 no-one of any importance arrived at the fashionable Vauxhall Gardens on the south bank until midnight.

The Vauxhall Gardens were the leading pleasure gardens in the country. Highly popular for the three summer months these Gardens attracted frequent return visits by most of the nobility: King George III and his large family were often to be seen there. As a consequence, it was important for anyone with aspirations to be seen there too. All were entertained with the sweet song of "numbers of nightingales," their music competing with the best orchestras in England. Fine pavilions designed by leading architects and decorated by well-known artists were furnished with cosy dining alcoves serving a wide variety of food and drink. There were shady groves to be explored, arbours decorated with gigantic sculptured figures, delightful walks among groves of trees illuminated by more than a thousand lamps whch were lit mechanically, as if by magic, offering a line of living flame at a given hour.

Benjamin Franklin's son William was swept away by his first visit in 1752, writing to a friend in America that he could dwell for hours on the "enchanting scenes at Vauxhall" which were "unbelievably beautiful," a more or less universal reaction from the thousands of visitors who attended: no less than six thousand people paid a hefty entry fee to be part of a special celebratory event held on the night of 19th May 1786. Was the Gaisnborough family among them?

Pp 303-304

21st C

Margaret Gainsborough's husband hits the headlines this week. An article by Charles Glover in The Sunday Times on February 12, 2012, reports the use of one of Thomas Gainsborough's early landscapes as a weapon in the battle to protect the gentle rolling countryside he depicted around 1748.

Protesters on the east coast are angered by the threat of an army of huge new pylons marching across this area of natural beauty unchanged since Gainsborough recorded the scene two hundred and sixty years ago.

They criticize the insensitivity of the National Grid as it now plans to deliver a quarter of the country's electricity supply from new wind farms to be placed off the coast in the North Sea, using these gigantic metal structures, 196 feet high, striding across the landscape to do so. The protesters urge the authority to think again, and use underground cables to save Gainsborough's beautiful, unspoiled landscape. The painting concerned is "Wooded Landscape with Herdsman Seated" and it is housed in Gainsborough's House Museum in Sudbury.

Let's hope that the new energy secretary, Ed Davey, will be moved to cancel plans for the march of the giants and settle for the underground alternative.


21st C

I have misled you. Today I discovered in an article by Andrew Swift published in THE BATH MAGAZINE this week (Feb 2012, pp 20-21) that the fashionable White Hart Inn always used by Dr Sibbald in the 18th C when visiting his daughter Susan in Bath was not the current gastropub of the same name existing today in Widcombe as I suggested, but a building then standing opposite the Pump Room.

As Andrew Swift points out the owner of the popular White Hart in the 1830's was a certain Moses Pickwick, a foundling discovered in a basket left in a stable at an inn in the village of Pickwick near Bath - hence the name that tickled the imagination of Charles Dickens, which he then made famous.

Andrew Swift says Dickens made no secret of his dislike of Bath. He described it as "a mouldy old roosting place built by a cemetery full of old people"; "a dreary city" peopled with "appalling old gentlemen with thin legs and nankeen trousers!"

18th C

Let's return now to the time when Mary and Margaret Gainsborough left boarding school in London and returned to live at home with their parents in this house in Bath. Historian Amanda Foreman claims that they did so in a period that was one of the most sexually integrated times in British history. Another writer, Amanda Vickery, agrees, believing that young Georgian women like the Gainsborough girls enjoyed considerably more freedom than their grandmothers were permitted.

The accepted "proper" role played by women was the subject of considerable debate, often the cause of serious family disagreements. Georgiana, the beautiful and spirited Duchess of Devonshire, was a prime example, attracting widespread criticism when she became heavily involved in politics in the mid 18th C, offering kisses in exchange for votes. Recent studies indicate that women of the aristocracy and those in society generally were much more active politically and socially than the literature of the day indicated. Their participation attracted angry criticism from contemporaries who demanded that women should return to their rightful place: the home.

As early as 1732 the press reported that women were seeking to supplant men by wearing breeches and riding astride. Some women were actually seen to be shaking hands! And some had the affrontery to order their men to get them coffee, instead of serving the males themselves. What was worse, claimed the Gentleman's Magazine in July 1732, misdirected females actively took the initiative in affairs of the heart.

And touching on romance, a surprising statistic was revealed recently by author Faramerz Dabhoiwala in his book THE ORIGINS OF SEX (Allen lane, 2012). He discovered that in the year 1800 no less than forty percent of women were pregnant on their wedding day. This to me amazing fact indicates that many chaperones of those young ladies were less than successful in their duties.

One of the consequences of increasing female poltical activity was the interest in the subject shown by newspapers. When the Gainsboroughs moved to live in London in 1774 there were nine daily newspapers in the capital and hundreds of weeklies in the provinces, all eager to reprint London's gossip columns highlighting activties of celebrities of the day.

The result of this widespread publicity was that for the first time national figure emerged and became widely known as celebrities whose lives were followed with as much attention in the 18th C as they are on Facebook and Twitter today. People attracting such interest were those whom readers could recognise and identify with, forming then, as today, some kind of personal connection.

Nevertheless, for all the modern attitudes of women like the Duchess of Devonshire, people on the level of Margaret Gainsborough had few legal rights. Upon marriage any monies belonging to a wife in the 18th C automatically became the property of her husband. In the case of the painter, Margaret's handsome annual income of £200 (equivalent in 2002 to £20,000) from her father's ducal estate was paid directly into Gainsborough's bank account and administered entirely by him.

Had he chosen to beat Margaret for any misdemeanor he was entitled to do so, provided there was a good cause and provided that he used a stick no thicker than his thumb. In law Gainsborough and his contemporaries could treat their wives as they pleased but for two conditions: they were not permitted to imprison or physically torture their spouses.

The preacher John Wesley reported that wife-beating was a frequent occurrence in Newcastle in 1743 and letters and diaries of the time reveal that wife-beating, especially when husbands were under the influence of liquor (a common state) was a frequent practice not by any means limited to the lower classes.

Illegitimate children were often taken care of by the family of either the mother or father of the child. Aristocrats like the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire set the example by taking into their home the Duke's illegitimate child by his mistress, Lady Elizabeth Foster, who often lived with the Devonshires and became an intimate friend of Georgiana, the Duchess. After Georgiana's death Elizabeth married the Duke and stepped neatly into her shoes as the new Duchess. However, the Duke refused Georgiana the same courtesy when she gave birth to a daughter by another man. That infant was fostered out, far off in the country. Georgiana kept in touch, but only occasionally was she given her husband's permission to visit her child.

This broadminded attitude towards children born out of wedlock was widespread and not limited to the upper classes. Thomas Turner, a village shopkeeper, agreed to take the eight year old illegitimate son of his half-sister into his home in 1757.

This respectable girl either chose not to marry the father of her child or did not have the opportunity to do so. Initially her father, Turner senior, undertook to bring up the boy, and following his death, Turner the shopkeeper felt obliged to take him into his household in return for the sum of £5 per year, left for this purpose in Turner senior's will, to board and clothe the lad until he was fourteen. This was an example of the family publicly taking a responsible attitude towards the problem of the illegitimate child.

On the other hand James Boswell discreetly managed the affairs of his illegitimate infants Charles and Sally, born in his batchelor days, with the help of a medical friend so that they appear not to have impinged on his marriage. It appears that his wife might never have known of the existence of these children.

Woman like Mrs Boswell were often extremely hostile to the activities of adulterous female wives (men in a similar situation were not castigated in the same way) and they felt the same about pregnant servant girls.

Unmarried women and older women faced difficult choices and it appears lived mostly unhappy lives. The writer Fanny Burney observed through one of her male characters in a novel that there seemed to be no reason for a single woman to live after the age of thirty because she was only in other people's way, often further resented because she was a financial burden on some man: father, brother, uncle or son - or worse, her male in-laws.

Nevertheless, some single women fought back: they were well-known for their activities in the money market as rentiers, investors and money lenders, which might indicate that wealthy married women found trade distasteful and beneath them, leaving such matters to their husbands.

Pp. 282-293

18th C
Schoolgirls boarding at Belvedere House who had permission to make visits to private houses on Sundays had their names recorded on a slate the previous evening. Susan Mein's first outing was to 12 Brock Street, the home of Mrs Gambier, widow of a high-ranking naval officer, friend of her father and Susan's guardian in Bath.

On Sunday morning the girls were instructed to learn their prayers and catechism before leaving for church, the Misses Lee heading the procession heading down Lansdown hill, all the girls dressed in white frocks and carrying fans and prayer books. Teachers brought up the rear. The fans were used to cover the girls' faces when praying as the position of their particular section of seating made kneeling impossible.

After the service those lucky individuals permitted visits were collected by liveried servants. Susan admitted to being thrilled to see that Thomas, Mrs Gambier's footman, was the grandest of them all. He wore a cockade in his hat, carried a tall cane, and saluted Miss Lee before calling loudly for 'Miss Mein!' Her name was repeated until Susan reached Miss Lee's side when the man was instructed to take her to Mrs Gambier's house by the most direct route. He was reminded firmly of the hour she must return to school. Off went Susan with the smartly dressed footman walking close behind her.

After dinner Mrs Gambier took Susan to call on friends, the footman accompanying them. When they reached the host's house, the footman was required to knock at the door, then wait outside. Often there would be three or four men waiting for their mistresses to reappear, all wearing identifying liveries so that if a caller wanted to avoid an enemy currently visiting the house, she could check the livery and hurry by.

Bath was held in high esteem by the most fashionable people in the country at this time, when royalty and many aristocrats were among those taking the waters and provision of elaborate and expensive livery was highly competitive.

On this first visit to 12 Brock Street Thomas returned Susan to the school at the appointed hour, carrying on her behalf a gift of a cake which was stored in a large padlocked tin box with similar goodies brought back to the school by other pupils and not returned to them until the following afternoon, to be shared with friends.

On her birthday visit to Mrs Gambier her hostess invited Susan beforehand to choose her own menu for a celebratory dinner at the house. She chose her favourite meal of roast goose followed by damson pudding. The meal was served as requested but Susan never ordered the same again: her guardian made it quite clear that roast goose was less than delicate, a most unsuitable choice for a maiden.

The school's major event was the annual ball held each year in the Assembly Rooms around the corner from Gainsborough's House in The Circus. The girls all wore white muslin rocks with long, wide primrose coloured sashes and wreaths of primroses in their hair.

The day before the ball the most fashionable hair-dresser in Bath, Mr Pope and his two assistants, called to dress the girls' hair in the latest style. Overnight curl papers were used to produce a mass of curls all over the head with a row of kiss-curls surrounding the face, a painful process which produced a sleepless night for every one of the girls old enough to participate because of the tight curl papers they wore to bed, looking, in Susan's opinion, like porcupines.

These ugly painful affairs had to be endured until after dinner on the day of the ball when the hairdressers returned to uncurl and style each head, adding a chaplet of primroses only after the girls were fully dressed.

To Susan's dismay she was singled out from the rest by being the only pupil to wear two rows of pearls (sent in by Mrs Gambier) crowning her curls instead of flowers. She was devastated, but had to submit to the indignity of being marked out as diffferent from her friends.

Even by cramming two slender girls into each sedan chair, transporting all of them to the Assembly Rooms was a long process but eventually they entered the splendid rooms in procession and there beneath the famous sparkling candelit chandeliers the first person they saw was the Prince of Wales wearing a fabulous diamond decoration so often described by those who saw it. The Prince was dressed in a rich green coat with a white waistcoat. His hair was powdered white, frizzed out and worn in a queue but, Susan noted, not curled.

The girls performed several minuets before joining their families. Before leaving, they were assembled to make a"Bath Curtsey" to the Prince, and then retired to take tea in a private room befoe being sent back to school as fast as the sedan chairmen could haul them up the hill.

Belvedere House was highly regarded and according to Susan Mein the girls under the supervision of the popular Misses Lee were happy there. They were known locally as The Leevites. Physical punishment of any kind was never permitted and the Misses Lee were generous in providing treats.

Each girl was permitted sixpence a week pocket money, using some of it to send out for fruit and cakes twice a week. A mature pear tree in the garden provided a seasonal supply of the fruit free of charge to pupils and two or three times each half year girls who could afford to do so were actively encouraged by the senior Miss Lee to treat themselves to a feast. The school provided tea and sugar (expensive items), the pupils bought in buns and plum cakes and everyone (even, as Susan pointedly noted, those girls too mean to contribute) devoured everything on offer.

Susan's beloved and attentive father often called in to see her when on his way to and from London, always staying overnight at The White Hart Inn (which is still there in Widcombe, now a popular gastropub). Susan was invited to dine with her father after Billy the Boots from the Inn had been sent across town with a note to Miss Lee. A sedan chair was hired to carry Susan down the hill later that day to meet her father. (No telephones then meant communication even from one part of town to another took considerable time and effort on the part of several people).

Her father spoiled Susan by taking her shopping on each visit and she would return to school laden with gifts, a golden guinea nestling inside her purse.

Susan Sibbold nee Mein remained at Belvedere House for three happy years, leaving when she turned seventeen to live with her father in London. He was then employed by the Navy, serving on the "Sick and Wounded Board." His pecular thin, cold-hearted wife refused to live in London, apparently preferring life in Devonport, but Susan's sister Betsey also lived with her father and shared her London adventures.

Susan's last journey from Bath was one she never forgot. Travelling with her father in a carriage drawn by four horses they were delayed by a heavy fall of snow and had to spend an extra night at an inn on the London Road. Dusk fell long before they reached Blackheath, then noted as a particularly dangerous place populated by highwaymen. There were no houses, no lights, just a dismal bleak moor with a gibbet on a rise with two skeletons hanging from it, swaying in the wind. Doctor Mein had taken the precaution of hiding a pair of pistols in the front pocket of the carriage, but both father and daughter admitted to being nervous as they passed through this grim landscape late at night. They cheered up when the carriage rolled eventually into Oxford Street, bright with lamps on both sides and further decorated by chemist shops, all their windows lit from behind with a brilliant display of giant red, blue and green apothecary jars.

Later, Susan married a Colonel Sibbald and they produced a large family of nine sons and two daughters. He died in 1835 while Susan was abroad visiting two of their sons then living in Canada. After receiving this shocking news, Susan decided to spend the rest of her life in that country, dying there in old age in 1866.

Her account of life at school in Bath is valuable and quite rare in its detailed description of life at that time, in all probability giving us an accurate insight into the life of Mary and Margaret Gainsborough at school in London a few years earlier, and made more welcome as there is very little documented evidence directly concerning the Gainsborough girls in their teenage years.

The contrast between the girls' school described above and boys' schools in the 18th C could not have been more marked. Boys were regularly bullied and beaten unmercifully at school. James Boswell, a lawyer, was supporting a schoolmaster in a case brought against him in the House of Lords. Boswell consulted his friend Dr Johnson on his view of the matter, indicating that he thought his client might have been too severe in dealing out punishment to his pupils.

The redoubtable doctor asked if the master had broken any bones. Boswell replied that the man in question had not. Johnson asked if the master had fractured any skulls. On being told he had not done so, he said he blieved the fellow had nothing to worry about, adding that he himself had been beaten unmercifully at his own school, Lichfield, and he had survived.


21st C
You might remember that I am trying to get seats for public use in the foyer outside the Waitrose supermarket in Bath. I have had a letter from Nigel Huxley the Branch Manager which is reassuring. He tells me that they will be installing four benches "made from recycled packaging" within a few weeks. This pleases me, but I wonder if these seats will be strong enough to support me - will they be made from discarded cardboard cartons?

18th C

Returning now to the Misses Lee's Belvedere House in Lansdown. We left the girls back from their walk and about to have tea.
Teachers made their own. Sarah the maid served the pupils who were offered tea and thick slices of bread and butter. These 'doorsteps' were so substantial some of the girls couldn't manage them all and passed them on to hungrier friends.

At 6.30 pm lessons had to be learnt for the following day and then girls were free until supper: the little ones played with their dolls, the older pupils read or sewed gifts and trifles, or amused themselves with their ever popular scrapbooks. Supper was served in the dining room: they had eaten meat and vegetables in the middle of the day so bread and cheese and beer were served now or, if preferred, bread and milk.

At 8 pm all pupils kneeled as Miss Lee read prayers before they were dismissed to go up to bed. The first thing they did on returning to their rooms was to take off their frocks. There were no such things as coat hangers which were not invented until late in the 19th C, so all clothes were folded and stored in cupboards or chests. Putting on their dressing gowns - an essential item - the girls brushed their hair, put in curl papers and looked over the next day's lessons. Some then sat and talked while it was light in the summer. But in winter it was far too cold and dark and they jumped smartly into bed before the candles were blown out by the mistress in charge. Each girl kept her own laundry book, listing everything sent out to be washed every Monday morning.

Three teachers were in charge at bedtime. The two privileged older parlour boarders each had her own room. They changed their clothes and returned to join the Miss Lees in the sisters' private drawing room, frequently joining them in any of their social activities in the town,

As a new girl Susan slept in a small bed in a room occupied by the French mistress and two other teachers. Later she was moved into one of the larger rooms shared by eight pupils.

Everyone rose at 6 am and lessons began at 8 am when the girls stood to curtsey as the senior Miss Lee appeared in the schoolroom. The set books for Susan's group were an English Grammar, Guthrie's Geographical Grammar, and two or three French books. Susan was espcially pleased about the Guthrie because she knew it well from studying it at home.

For some specialized subjects individual tutors were employed. Mr Billy Perks taught writing and arithmetic. Susan was one of his favourites, frequently rewarded for good work with a piece of gingerbread or a plum, warm from his jacket pocket.

There were pianos in three rooms in the school and each girl took three lessons per week, with practice required each day under the eagle eye of Mrs Oaks the music teacher. On Tuesdays and Fridays Monsieur Becker the drawing master appeared. He was a favourite of Miss Anne Lee and she always sat at table with him, a fact which did not pass unnoticed by the girls.

Grammar and French were each taught on a particular day and on Wednesday Miss Fleming arrived in her privately owned sedan chair (a rare indulgence) to conduct dancing lessons. She was extremely tall and stout, but held heself erect while teaching the minuet and other popular dances in the school room and dining room, with Simon the fiddler providing the music. Miss Fleming continually admonished the young ladies to be a credit to Bath on the dance floor. Susan needed no urging: she love dancing and was so good at it that Miss Fleming often rewarded her with a bonbon.

But she met her match in the French class. Susan hated speaking the language and was devastated to learn on her first day at the school that speaking in French was mandatory for every pupil during school hours! "Getting the mark" meant bowls of gruel for disobeying this rigid rule by lapsing into English.

At one of her earliest meals Susan had been intrigued by the sight of two girls undergoing punishment for some (then unknown to her) misdemeanor. They were forced to sit alone at a small table in the dining room where they were served slices of dry bread and a pint basin each of thin watery gruel. They were not permitted to leave the table until the bowl was empty. She soon learnt that the "mark" also took the form of a physical token -a badge of misconduct - handed out to offending pupils. Sometimes a close friend would take the badge and eat the gruel as a favour.

Classes were held Monday to Friday but Saturday morning was spent mending stockings, sewing on buttons and doing other personal chores, while the afternoon was given over to free time, spent at the school.

Pp 272-275

18th C

Back to the 18th C school girls where we find Susan Sibbald approving of the menu offered in the dining room at Belvedere House on Lansdown hill, Bath. Apparently everyone ate well at this school: on Monday roast beef was served. Tuesday and Friday: roast shoulder of mutton. Wednesday: a round of beef. Thursday: boiled leg of mutton. Saturday: stewed beef and picled walnuts, a great favourite of the girls.

Twice a week "choke dogs" were on the menu. These were currant dumplings. On other days rice pudding followed the meat course. A few of the wealthy girls, including Susan and her new best friend, Sophy Templer, remained at table to enjoy a glass of port wine, an extra cost to their parents, while the rest of the pupils returned to the schoolroom.

In summer they remained there after the mid-day meal doing needlework until 4 p.m. when everyone donned walking shoes, bonnets, spencers or tippets and with three teachers supervising, left the school, walking in crocodile formation, two by two, up the hill and into the adjacent countryside above Landsdown, an area much frequented by Thomas Gainsborough who frequently rode his favourite horse up the hill and stayed to sketch the landscape.

Leaving the town behind them the girls were free to walk in small groups, the adults following some distance behind. They were all due back at school by 6 p.m for tea, although not everyone took the fashionable Chinese treat presumably, like port wine, it involved an additional cost. At 6.30 p.m. lessons had to be learned for the following day and when that was done, the girls were free to amuse themselves until suppertime.


21st C

They say if you want to get anything done, contact your member of parliament, especially if he or she happens to be in power at the time. This is certainly true of my local MP, Don Foster, who is unfailingly supportive whenever I request assistance.

My latest concern is, not for the first time I might add, lack of seating in public places for those who, like me, older people, mothers with young children, need a place to rest weary legs.

Bath's only Waitrose supermarket in the city is enlarging its premises and the whole area previously containing individual stores, coffee shops and restaurants was vacated overnight after Christmas.

As a rsult in the whole deserted area there are no chairs or tables which previously offered seating and refreshment for the elderly or disabled. Only one park-like bench capable of accommodating three smallish people at most remains in this empty echoing space.

The supermarket itself is so limited in size it has always been a problem to move a trolley through its cramped and crowded aisles. One backless form situated next to the exit is the only seating available in store.

So, my campaign is for provision of temporary seating in the main entrance of the building to be used throughout the twelve month rebuilding project which involves major changes to the interior, including relocating the escalator.

Don foster has kindly taken up the cause and with his help and, I hope, the assistance of Bath Branch Manager, Nigel Huxley and the Managing Director of Waitrose, Mark Price, we might see some seating appear shortly. So far Don Foster has replied to my letter but I have heard nothing from Messrs Huxley and Price.

Pp. 262-269

18th C

Children of the wealthy in Bath were not the only girls offered education in mid 18th C. A charitable school for the poor was established at Batheaston, just outside the town, and an account of it published as a novel in 1763, the year before Molly and Margaret left to board in London.

Two women, Lady Barbara Montague and her friend, Sarah Scott, founded the charity which aimed to educate young females to take positions as housekeepers, nursemaids or governesses. Families like Gainsborough's wealthy neighbours in The Circus and his friends living in nearby country mansions proved eager to employ these girls because they had been thoroughly taught their different trades and, perhaps more importantly, they were actively encouraged to recognize themselves as social inferiors, destined to serve their superiors, usually for life. It was extremely difficult for 18th C women in service to escape the confines which bound them.

Other forms of education existed and were followed by individuals. A form of shorthand called "Rich's and Weston's Shorthand was in use by at least one travelling scribe as early as 1755. He used this system to take notes from his illiterate customers at fairs and markets before composing letters and documents on their behalf.

In 1837 Isaac Pitman invented a new form of shorthand (or phonography) which was taught in the institution he set up in Bath for that purpose. His system became world-famous and won him a knighthood in 1894. This business lingered on. When I was given my first computer not so many years ago I learned how to use it by enrolling in Pitman's Computer Course for Beginners in Bath.

Susan Sibbald nee Mein was one of ten children. Desperately unhappy at home in the presence of an unusually frigid mother who showed her no affection, Susan begged to be sent to boarding school in Bath. Belvedere House owned and run by the three Lee sisters was highly recommended to her father who agreed to take his daughter to view the school.

Many long years later, at the age of seventy, Susan recorded her personal recollection of her colourful life, including a long description of her school days in Bath. The resulting manuscript was published in 1926, edited by her grandson, and is drawn on here to illustrate the life the Gainsborough girls probably experienced as boarders at a similar institution in London.

Travelling by horse and carriage from Devonport, Susan Mein and her father, a doctor occupying a senior post in the Navy, stayed overnight at the popular White Hart Inn in Bath before being taken next morning by sedan chairs up the steep hill above the town to view the school. Susan's immediate impression was unfavourable. Then fourteen years old she thought the thick venetian blinds or "jalousies" covering all the windows facing the street made the building look more like the severe facade of a nunnery than a girls'school. She was reprimanded rather sharply by a friend of the family who warned her not to judge a book by its cover. (Mrs Gambier, who accompanied them, had agreed to act as Susan's mentor and chaperone while she remained in Bath). The girl soon discovered that the windows in all the rooms where the pupils studied and lived, far from being dark and miserable, enjoyed splendid, wide-ranging views over the town below.

Belvedere House accommodated fifty-two boarders and two parlour boarders, older girls who were chaperoned by the Misses Lee and who enjoyed the social round in Bath after school hours. Twenty day girls also attended the school. They were all taught by three teachers and two governesses under the direction of all three Lee sisters. The school was so popular there was always a waiting list for places. A boarder was permitted visits to specified houses of friends or relatives living in the town on Friday or Sunday, and also on the pupil's own birthday.

The school-room itself was a vast space, lit by an enormous venetian window and heated by a fireplace at each end. Each of the seventy-two pupils of all ages sat in orderly rows on forms with four teachers or governesses sitting at tables facing them. The girls' desks, presumably of a small folding design, were hung on the wall when not in use.

Susan, admitting to feeling quite nervous, joined the class just before mid-day twenty four hours after arriving to take up residence. On the stroke of noon the Misses Lee left the school-room. The girls were instructed to put away their books - everything always had to be placed neatly in its correct place, and woe betide the delinquent who failed to do so. The day girls put on their outer garments and left for home. Susan and the other boarders were told to don their "terrace" bonnets to protect their complexions before going out to enjoy the fresh air on the stone-flagged terrace running across the width of the rear of the the mansion. Iron railings guarded steps leading down to the garden below which was strictly out of bounds. The girls had to be content with walking about the terrace and enjoying the extensive panoramic view of Bath that lay before them.

Pupils were aged from eight years upwards, the two parlour boarders being the oldest at nineteen. Susan described them as a merry lot, the younger girls playing games she described as "Threading the Needle," "French and English," "Fox and Geese," while others danced round and round the terrace, performing Sottish dance steps with skipping ropes, all joining in to Susan's delight.

She teemed up with another new girl, Sophy Templer, and arm in arm they walked up and down, not joining in, but observingf the others (which was apparently the expected behaviour of new girls) for an hour before the bell rang.

Removing their bonnets the girls crowded into the dining room where they were seated accoding to age at three long wooden tables. In the middle of the room stood a round table bearing dishes of joints of hot meat. Three governesses seated there carved for everyone, including the Misses Lee and all teachers and pupils. Two servants ran about serving the meal. If Susan wanted a second helping she was told she had to lean forward and put her right elbow on the table. If only a little meat and more vegetables were wanted, she must extend her hand with thumb touching forefinger. By this method the noise of unnecessary speaking was kept to a minimum.