Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Empire & enlightenment

The Enlightenment is a search for an objective, universal understanding of the world, not driven by divinity. The systemic search for knowledge starts in the eighteenth century.

"Thinking like a global historian is considering connections", says Prof, who takes his time talking about tea in the mid 1700s. Why? Because tea houses became meeting places for gentlemen of leisure, who use the public sphere to think about politics and science and feed their radical thinking with caffeine and sugar. Just like we do today.

Here's a fact I should've known. Captain James Cook - Mr Science - died in Hawaii after locals thought  that actually they wouldn't like to be collected and shipped back to England. These specimens fought back.

Oo! OO!! Prof mentions women. Imagine that! He talks about the Wealth of Nations and says the relations between men and women "are going to be an important part of the story". Of course I acknowledge that for much of history and in much of the world 'people' were men and women weren't considered as a category. But hey, we're modern historians. We can analyse the past using categories - like gender - that maybe our ancestors didn't use. I am excited! Women are going to be part of the story! An important part! Let's find out more...

Mary Wollstonecraft - women are creatures of reason too. If the newly proclaimed laws of Enlightenment thinking don't apply to women then - d'oh! - they are not objective and universal. Atta girl.

Sadly, today that was all we had to learn about women. Prof moves onto the way the Enlightenment created categorisations of race, and shows us Casta Paintings: images of mixed race couples with their children. At least, that's what he sees. I see European men with native women (Indian, Mexican, Moorish, African) and their children. I don't see paintings of Native men with European women. I don't hear any discussion of power and priviledge. Prof, I know you're not a sociologist, but seriously mate this is beginners observation. You can do better than this.

Two important eighteenth century books I've never read and probably never will.

  • Adam Smith - The Wealth of Nations 
  • Mary Wollstonecraft - A Vindication of the Rights of Women. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Richard Parkes Bonnington 1802 - 1828

Poor Richard. Died aged just 25 from TB, with the first 16 years of his life spent in Arnold, Notts. Luckily, after moving to Paris in 1818 (where Dad used Nottingham-know-how to set up a lace factory) Richard discovered Travel and went off to see, and paint, the sights of Europe.

If you know anything about nineteenth century French art history then you'll be impressed by the impressiveness of Richard's tutors, peers and pals. I know very little about this, so I'm assuming Wikipedia has got this right. The National Gallery - which definately knows - says:
Bonington was one of the most important artists of the early nineteenth century, vital to the understanding of French and British art of the Romantic period. His range included history and subject paintings, and landscapes, highly-finished works and sketches, all imbued with a brilliance and sureness of touch which was greatly admired both during and after his lifetime.
So there! Arnold boy made good.

Where did this information come from? The National Gallery and the great BBC website 'Your paintings'

Friday, 18 October 2013

Watson Fothergill, architect (1841 - 1928)

His Mum was Mary Ann Fothergill. His Dad was Robert Watson. They called their baby Fothergill Watson but in a fit of proto-feminism(?) he swapped things round; renaming himself  Watson Fothergill in 1892. What's the psychology of that then? Dad had died in 1853 when young FW was 12. He started his professional practice in 1862, aged 21. And then - aged 51 - he changes his name. Odd. I suppose there were no flash cars with which to express a mid life crisis in Victorian England.

Fothergill married into beer - Anne Hage his wife was daughter of one of the three founders of Mansfield Brewery. They marry in 1867 and have seven children. The boys die young and childless; making his decision to adopt his Mum's family name sadly ineffectual.

Anne dies in 1922 - a 55 year marriage. Fothergill is buried in Castle Rock cemetery - an odd little monument that I've walked past and not noticed. When I'm next there, I'll check to see if the wife and kids are in nearby plots.

Clawson Lodge, now the Ukranian Centre
Fothergill's architecture is impressive, if you like the Victorian gothic look. Over 100 distinctive Fothergill buildings in the city and a few in the county. Sadly, Nottingham's redevelopment in the 1970s was thoughtlessly disrespectful and many buildings were destroyed in favour of crappy modernist blocks that don't stand the test of time What remains, though, is prestige.

Where did I get my information from? Why, the Watson Fothergill society, of course. And then, after I'd written the above, I found this Left Lion article and discovered I'm not the first person to make the mid life crisis crack. Oh well. Which of us is truly original?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Nell Gwynn & Bestwood Park

Life lesson: if a King falls for your Great Great (etc) Grandma you'll be a comfortably off family for a while

Nell Gwynn: actress, mistress, mum. Her affair with Charles II didn't start with a glance across a crowded room. Rather, she was one of a number of women pimped out by the Duke of Buckingham until Charles agreed a price. The affair lasted from 1668 - when Nell was 18 and the King was 38 - until his death in 1685. 

King Charles II - a hedonistic royal after a time of Puritan chill - had a dozen or more mistresses, a wife, and an awful lot of children. None of the 'legitimate' children lived though, and his brother James succeeded as King. 

Nell had two sons: 
  • Charles, who became Duke of Beauclerk and Duke of St Albans and 
  • James, who died aged 9.
Many gifts came Nell's way, including several estates. I liked this story, quoted from the Notts county council website. Sometimes, it's worth getting up early:
The popular story is that Charles II and his guests, when staying in the lodge, would tease poor Nell for sleeping in and missing a good morning's sport. Charles II offered to gift to Nell, "All the land she could ride around before breakfast," and was surprised the next day to find Nell sitting for breakfast before the King and all the guests. It was claimed she had ridden out early, dropping handkerchiefs along her route, and the encircled area became Bestwood Park. But that is just a popular story...
 After Charles died King James paid off Nell's mortgage on Bestwood lodge and gave her an annual pension. Although Bestwood had farmland and coal and could provide a healthy income, we all know it's Grim Up North. The Beauclerks lived in their other estates and Bestwood wasn't the family home until the 10th Duke of St Albans - Nell's great great great great great great great great grandson - decided to move in.

It was the 12th Duke who sold up in 1934. Much of the land was bought by the local council, who used for new housing. The 14th Duke sits in the House of Lords and is president of the Royal Stuart Society. For just £22 a year you could join him
  • to uphold rightful Monarchy and oppose republicanism.
But remember: his family's money starts with a woman sold to a king and the miners and farmers of Bestwood.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Mary Potter - 1847 - 1913

Because not all interesting lives are lived by the wealthy

I've never even thought to wonder who Mary Potter was, though there's enough public services named after her in Nottingham. So here's someone not famous who lived a relatively small life and didn't have a stately home to live it in, but isn't entirely forgotten. 

Mary grew up with four brothers in London, raised by her Mum after Dad ran away to Australia. That must have been an impoverished and difficult childhood. After breaking off her engagement aged 20, Mary became a Catholic nun. She attributed her religious vocation to the books her fiancé had given her. Apparently it was "Instructions for Christians with a timid conscience" that tipped the balance. Poor Godfrey.

She comes to Nottingham determined to find some poor people and do some good works. In 1877, after a fight with the Bishop, Mary founds the Little Company of Mary Sisters. It's still around, and because this is modern times these nuns have their own website. The Little Company begins its work in Hyson Green, feeding the poor. Hyson Green poor in the late 19th century were particularly poor: it was a slum then and there have been repeated attempts to regenerate the neighbourhood. 

The nuns start their work from a disused stocking factory. It seems they were the practical, get-on-with-it type. Known as the 'Blue Nuns' - because of their veil, not their choice of white wine - they did the things nuns do: prison visits, pre-natal, maternal, and domestic advice, nursing, prayer. It's said that Mary had two breast cancer surgeries on a kitchen table in Hyson Green without anaesthetic. Really?

But Mary and the Bishop continued to fight. In 1882 she goes to Rome to ask the Pope to take her side. (How's that for the ultimate "I'm telling Dad"?). The story that's told on official sites is that the Pope agreed with Mary but asked her to stay and continue her work in Italy. Maybe, but I wonder whether the nicer food and climate might have played a part? Also, we haven't heard the Bishop's side of this story. Maybe he booked her travel and asked the Pope to please keep her? By 1908 she establishes the first Italian school for nurse training. This means that Mary Potter's work in Nottingham spans just five years. She has a lot of legacy for a five year career here.

By the time she died there were 16 Little Company of Mary Sisters around the world. In 1988 Pope John Paul II declares her Venerable. In 1997 her body was brought back from Rome to be buried in Nottingham's St Barnabus cathedral

Where did I get this information from? I started from the excellent Nottingham Women's History group, and googled from there. Beware the Women's History site: while the political intent is worthy, there are some woeful typos which makes dates entirely unreliable. This BBC report adds extra colour, but I'm not sure it's well sourced.

Cassandra - Duchess of Chandos 1670 - 1735

If I'm ever an international movie star I think I'm going to book into hotels as Cassandra, Duchess of Chandos. It's a superb name. There would be glamour, intrigue and just enough naughtiness. Cassandra, in my imagination, is not the kind of woman who would carry her own luggage.

Cassandra was, though, an actual person, with an actual life some of which was lived in Nottingham's Wollaton Hall. What I think I love most about her is that she wrote down all the family's dirty little secrets which was a racy thing to be doing. She was also a geek: she learned to read medieval English so she could catalogue the family archive, and in her spare hours put Dad's wildlife trophies in good order.

Born in 1670 Cassandra was the daughter of naturalist Francis Willughby and Emma. They named her after her Grandma, family names being very much A Thing in this family of many Francis-es. Dad dies when she's two, and Mum remarries four years later. Step-Dad, Sir Josiah Child, is very rich and they all move to Essex where he plants trees, builds houses, and does the things rich men do. He's  Governor of the East Indies company, founder of the Royal Africa company and owns a good chunk of Jamaica. There's blood on his money.

In 1687 Cassandra's big brother Francis moves to Wollaton Hall and asks her to join him. She does, but he dies in 1688. Younger brother Thomas then moves in, and together the siblings set about restoring the hall which had massive fire damage and had been empty since 1643. Gardens are planted, walls are muralled, statuary is purchased. For inspiration they travel to see other great estates - I'm not clear if they took Thomas' wife along or left her home while they had fun.

In 1713 she marries her cousin, James Brydges. Together they build Cannons House in Middlesex. With fountains! The house becomes so famous that in the 1720s a one way system of crowd control is introduced. You've read Pride and Prejudice: you know that the English have always liked a good nosy round a stately home.

The Middleton Hall pamphlet says
Cassandra was 43 and was marked by smallpox. It is evident that James did not marry his cousin for money or any obvious female charms but his sons needed a mother.
Could that pamphlet be any more annoying? Cassandra was well travelled, well read, 'well bred', wealthy, and had extensive experience of estate management and remodelling. Smart girl. I'd marry her. I will concede that wedding portrait isn't terribly flattering.  Family wealth is hammered by the South Sea bubble in 1720. So let's hope she didn't marry him for his money?

Wedding portrait

Cassandra dies in 1735, aged 65. She'd not been well for the last ten years, and was a big fan of a spa day and a nice lie down. She had no children, but had been step mum to two sons since they were small. Here's a connection I wasn't expecting. Was Jane Austen's mum - the Duke's great niece - named after her?

Where did I get my information from? The Middleton Hall website, and the University of Nottingham archive. I've checked Project Gutenburg: her books and travel diaries aren't there, yet. But I bet they're quite a read.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Sir Percival Willoughby ? - 1643

Heir to Wollaton Hall and its first resident.

If you ever need to impress a train buff with your mastery of railway trivia, Sir P is your man. In 1605 he built the first railway in Britain. Where? Strelley, Notts!

Percival isn't a very interesting character until he inherits Wollaton Hall and its various estates. Born - um, in the past... - he marries his cousin's daughter Bridget in 1580. They sometimes live with his parents, sometimes with hers, for the next 15 years. Family records are incomplete, but their eldest son is born in 1588. They have ten children in total, with nine living to adulthood.

In 1595 his mother in law Elizabeth dies, and a year later father in law Francis dies too. But the inheritance isn't smooth - there's no will, and there's a new baby on the way courtesy of Francis' second wife who was married and pregnant really quite quickly. Once the complications are resolved (baby dies, but it doesn't really matter because she was a girl) Percival has estates, and debts.

In 1599 the family move into Wollaton Hall, which cost a fortune to build and has stood empty for 11 years. A few years later Percival becomes Sir Percival - Queen Elizabeth dies and King James I begins his reign with a few knightings.

Like his father in law, Sir Percival was looking for investments to turn a profit. The railway was part of a coal mine - which wasn't a good investment. He also invested in the Newfoundland company - in an age of explorers and colonisation this must have seemed a good bet. Sending his third son - Thomas - to stake a claim Sir Percival hoped that there would be mining potential he could exploit. I'm fascinated that, when Thomas sailed home, he got a fatherly bollocking for failing to properly explore the new land. I don't really understand the legalities of Sir P's claim but it appears that it went slowly pearshaped over 20 years, and he lost money through the venture.

He was imprisoned for debt in 1606 and 'outlawed for debt' in 1622, 1623 and 1624. He resolved the debt each time by selling land but that decreased his income and - ooops - it happened again.

Bridget dies in 1629 after a 49 year marriage. So close to their Golden wedding anniversary! Sir P dies 14 years after that so he must have been in his 80s by then? There's a serious fire at Wollaton Hall in 1642. I can't find out if this is an accident, or a consequence of the Civil War. The interior is badly damaged and few repairs are made. Is Sir P unable to afford repairs? Or too old and infirm to make it happen? Either way, after his death in 1643 the house is left standing derelict until 1687.

Where did I get this information? It's mostly based on this University of Nottingham archive and this online history of parliament.

Sir Francis Willoughby - 1546 - 1596

A developing fascination with some local-ish history. But why don't people write facts in an engaging way? Here's my re-write of this fascinating but dry site from the University of Nottingham. History is gossip.

Son of Sir Henry Willoughby and Anne, Francis was born in 1546 at Woodlands in Dorset. In 1546 Henry VIII was in his final year as king. Times they are a changing, and the massive religious upheaval of the mid C16 is the background to Francis' childhood.

Mum dies when Francis is two. Dad inherits two estates - Wollaton and Middleton - in 1549 but he dies that sumer while fighting in Kett's Rebellion. So little Francis is an orphan by age three. Francis lives with uncle George, while his big brother Thomas is raised by Henry Grey, the Duke of Suffolk. (I don't know where his big sister Margaret went to live. Apparently that wasn't an important enough detail to write down.) Anyway, the uncles get political and are part of the Lady Jane Grey plot - the Duke is executed in 1554 and uncle George serves time in the Tower of London.

When Francis is 13 his big brother dies, and Francis becomes heir to the Wollaton estate.

Aged 18 Francis' then guardian (Sir Francis Knollys) suggests marriage to his daughter - who doesn't have a name. Francis doesn't fancy that, and marries his neighbour Elizabeth instead. They have six daughters who live, and various sons who don't. I'd speculate that this heir problem doesn't help what's described as a 'stormy' marriage. Just how violent does the violence have to be for a wife to leave her husband in 1578? She comes back to him ten years later, and dies in 1595. He's 49 years old by then.

Sir Francis - he's knighted in 1575 - is rich, rich, rich. He has extensive land and coal mines in a number of counties, and town houses in Nottingham, Coventry and elsewhere.

In 1580, he decides to demonstrate his wealth by building a Grand Design on the only hill in Nottingham that rivals Nottingham's Castle rock. Like every episode of Grand Design you've ever seen, costs spiral and the borrowing begins. The new hall is completed in 1588 - the same year that Francis and Elizabeth reconcile. Coincidence? I don't know. But they don't move into the mansion. Meantime that most famous of Francis' - Drake - is battling the Spanish Armada and winning the favour of that most famous Elizabeth. Queen Liz never stayed with Sir Francis at Wollaton, though she probably did stay at Middleton Hall, his main residence in the 1570s.

Wollaton Hall: a grand design

Our Sir Francis is known as an early investor in agricultural and industrial innovation. His schemes included woad planting and ironworks. However, he's spent too much on the new hall, and the income from the coal pits is decreasing. England is at war, there are taxes to pay, and all those daughters need dowries. Sir Francis is in debt. This leads to tensions with the man who is named as Sir Francis' heir, and would like to inherit assets, not liabilities please.

Soon after Elizabeth's death Sir Francis remarries. He still wants an heir. New wife Dorothy Tamworth is pregnant when, in 1596, aged 50, Sir Francis dies. It's suspected he's poisoned. (By who? Isn't that tantalising?). The disposal of the estate depended on whether Dorothy's child was a boy or a girl. She was a girl, and died.

There was no will, and there were lawsuits. Eventually the estate - and its many debts - is inherited by Sir Francis' son-in-law (also his cousin) Percival Willoughby. So everything stays in the family in the end.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The worlds that merchants made

Our theme is the move from an inter connected world to an interdependent one. It's all about the market(s), dummy. Colonies mark a shift in models of trade - away from trading the surplus created by a community who is largely self sustaining, towards organising communities to specialise in the production of trade goods.

"As the world becomes wealthier, it also becomes more unequal" says Prof. Again, I ask: where are the women in this analysis?

Found the discussion of how our expectations around food are constructed very interesting. The idea of specific foods for breakfast / lunch / dinner is relatively new. The increased access to sugar made after dinner dessert a middle class essential. Food and meals shape families and societies.

The stock exchange (developing in Amsterdam & London in late C17) is the commodification of companies. They become entities that are traded.

In other news: these lectures would be so much easier to follow if there were a clearer timeline. When did this stuff all happen? Dunno. Colonies were establishing from 1500ish? But lecturer is talking a lot about the Wealth of Nations and that's 1770s. Also a lot about coffee shops which is late 1600s. So it's all very interesting, but it's a 350 year global span in a 45 minute lecture. Deep...