Architectural Genius: Robert Adam vs. Sir William Chambers

Adelphi is a district in the City of Westminster. The Adelphi Buildings, a block of 24 unified neoclassical terrace houses, between The Strand and the River Thames in the parish of St Martin in the Fields, was named “Adelphi,” for it the Greek word meaning “brothers.” The Adam brothers (John, Robert, James, and William Adam) were the masterminds of this development in the late 1700s. They were built between 1768 and 1772. The ruins of Durham House on the site were demolished for the construction.

The Adelphi forms one of the most notable works of the brothers Adam. The design of the buildings was, for the most part, the work of Robert Adam, though his brothers, James and William, were also concerned with the scheme.

The father of this remarkable family, William Adam of Maryburgh (now Blair Adam), near Kinross, Scotland, had a considerable practice as an architect. He died in 1748. John, the eldest son, appears to have remained in Scotland, but the three younger sons, Robert, James and William, all came to practise architecture in London.

After being educated at Edinburgh University, Robert Adam visited Italy and other countries and was greatly influenced by the architecture he observed. He, therefore, developed his own unique style of architectural design based on Classic domestic architecture, not he severe temple architecture which inspired the Renaissance. “The light and elegant treatment thus evolved resulted in a decorative manner that has come to be considered typical of the Adam style. The characteristic qualities of Robert Adam’s method of working were well illustrated in the Adelphi group of buildings and the attractive forms of decorative design developed by him appear, externally, in doors and door-cases, in the flat but richly ornamented pilasters, entablatures, string courses, medallion ornaments, etc., applied to the various facades, and, internally, in door-cases, columned screens, fireplaces, and delicately ornamented ceilings.

Robert Adam

“At the time the Adelphi scheme was commenced Robert Adam was about 40 years of age and had already to his credit a number of fine houses and architectural designs. The Adelphi was an achievement of which, despite the sneers of Walpole and others, any architect might well be proud, for Adam transformed a sharply sloping, derelict site, subject to inundations from the river at high tide, into one of the most desirable residential quarters in London. He produced a workable gradient for his streets by the expedient of building them on a series of brick arches, which increased from one to three tiers as the streets approached the river. Access to these arches was provided by subterranean streets duplicating those above.

“The architectural design of the Adelphi was a bold one, but the financial side of the scheme was daring even to rashness; no agreement was signed with the freeholder of the property, the Duke of St. Albans, until 1769, a year after work had been begun on the site; no authority was sought from Parliament for the reclamation of land from the river until 1771; the brothers reckoned on securing a return for their expenditure on the arches, the most costly part of the scheme, from the Government who they thought would rent the vaults for Ordnance stores, though they had no kind of guarantee that any such contract would be forthcoming; and finally the cost of the enterprise was greatly under-estimated and proved to be far beyond the resources of the promoters.” (British History Online)

Not all approved of the “Adam revolution.” The Royal Academy and Sir William Chambers essentially ignored the “Adam designs,” though a few imitations were exhibited. To say Chambers and Robert Adam did not get along well would be an understatement. [Sir William Chambers was an  eclectic architect of the Georgian period. who was one of the leading Palladian-style architects of his day and a founding father of the Royal Academy. Chambers’s best-known works are Somerset House (1776–86) in London, now home of the Courtauld Institute Galleries; the casino at Marino (c. 1776), near Dublin; Duddingston House (1762–64) in Edinburgh; and the ornamental buildings, including the Great Pagoda (1757–62), at Kew Gardens, Surrey (now in London). In the last he went as far in the direction of Romantic eclecticism as any architect of his time. In general, however, he was an architectural conservative who used a profound knowledge of European (especially French) architecture to give a new look to the accepted motifs of Palladianism. His books, notably A Treatise on Civil Architecture (1759), had widespread influence. (Britannica)

For some thirty years, Chambers and Adam were the leading architects of their time. Only Somerset House and Melbourne House remain as examples of Chambers’s work. For the Adam brothers, we still have a few fragments of the Adelphi, three houses of Portland Place, two façades in Fitzroy Square and the Admiralty screen.

Somerset House and the Aldephi. The Adelphi is complete. Somerset House is unfinished, lacking the eastern wind, to be completed by the building of King’s College. c. 1830-1835, painting by John Paul, c. 1825, Museum of London

To complete the Adelphi, the Adam brothers took out a 99-years’ lease from the Duke of St Albans in 1768 of the site of Durham House. After clearing the site, in 1771, they petitioned for an Act of Parliament so they might reclaim a shallow “bay” formed by the river at this point and erect a wharf and other necessary buildings.

Brick catacombs supported the blocks of houses. They were to be level with the Strand. There was to be a “Royal Terrace” in the centre and streets at the sides, which would with pedimented and pilastered ends. Those the houses were to know a certain splendor, the Adam brothers made no attempt to a “Roman” dressings, so to speak. Instead, they rendered expressive by gay strips of honeysuckle embroidery.

The idea was certainly one of a kind, but fate was not on the side of the Adam brothers. The Ordnance Office did not let all the vaults for storage. The constructed wharf was too low by some two feet. The houses did not sell as quickly as expect.

Yet, the Adam brothers were not down and out. They created a lottery selling 4,370 tickets at 50 pounds each, with 108 prizes. By selling their collection of works of art, the Adam brothers saved their project, but not totally their reputation.

British History Online tells us, “There were eight principal prizes and a number of smaller ones, consisting of the houses, shops, warehouses and vaults in the Adelphi not already sold, and a few houses in Queen Anne Street and Mansfield Street, as well as a collection of pictures and other works of art. A prospectus was published setting out the prizes in detail. One of these prizes, the value of which was given as £9,960, consisted of:

1. The 10th house west from Adam Street on the south side of John Street (No. 10) subject to a ground rent of £22 a year.

2. The 11th house there (No. 12) “in the occupation of Mr. William Adam, and let on a lease” from Ladyday 1773 at £150 per annum. Ground rent £23 per annum.

3. A house at the corner of John Street and York Buildings (No. 14) with cellars underneath. Ground rent £34 a year.

4. A house in the Strand at the east corner of Adam Street (No. 73) “let on lease to Mr. Thomas Becket” from Ladyday 1773 at £163 per annum. Ground rent £70 per annum.

5. “The New Exchange Coffeehouse, being the 4th west from Adam Street, in the Occupation of and let to Mr. Townshend. The Front Part on a Lease of 21 years from Midsummer 1771,” at £50 per annum, and the “Back Part on a Lease of which 31 years are unexpired from Michaelmas 1774,” at £20 per annum. Ground rent £44 17s. 9d. per annum.

N.B. This house is greatly underlet.”

The prices at which the houses were assessed proved to be somewhat optimistic, for when on 11th July, 1774, some of the prize-winning tickets were put up to auction they fetched considerably less than their nominal value. 

The scheme of the Adelphi included Adelphi Terrace, Robert Street and Adam Street to the west and east respectively, John Street to the north parallel to the Terrace, Durham House Street, and the north-east corner of York Buildings, etc. It embraced an area of roughly 400 ft. by 360 ft., or 3⅓ acres of ground. It will be seen, therefore, that the development was on an ambitious scale, comprising several streets and a large number of houses, practically all of which contained architectural features of distinction and interest. Adelphi Terrace formed the principal feature of the whole design and, with the advancing ends of the houses in Adam and Robert Streets, composed an effective group from the river.

The houses as originally designed showed plain brick facades with portions emphasised, such as the angles or centres of the blocks, with ornamented pilasters, entablatures, string courses, etc., in stucco, pleasantly designed metal balconies to windows, metal railings to areas, with lamp standards flanking doorways, and enriched door-cases. The character of the treatment will be seen by reference to the illustrations, which also show parts of the interior with the characteristic Adam decoration in wall linings, ceilings, fireplaces, door-cases, staircases, vestibule and other screens, etc. The ceilings in some cases include paintings by artists of the period, as e.g. that to the first-floor front room of No. 4, Adelphi Terrace.

Adelphi Terrace formed the most extensive individual group of houses. The whole of the front was altered by the unfortunate changes made in 1872, when the facade was cemented over and vulgarised on Victorian lines, entirely destroying its original character. The general effect of the buildings facing the river was, moreover, considerably modified when the Victoria Embankment with its gardens and roadway was formed in 1864–70.

No. 10, Adelphi Terrace, details of doors and window linings on first floor ~

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The London Building Act of 1774

The Building Act of 1774 changed the look of London and set off rapid estate development. Many of the aristocracy decided to build large, expansive houses in London. The Duke of Manchester was one of those who took advantage of the situation and had a house built on Portman land in what is now called Manchester Square. Stratford Place was built on a triangular piece of land purchased from the City by the Honourable Edward Stratford. Nowadays, it is sometimes referred to as “London’s grandest cul-de-sac.”

“Its access from the northern side of Oxford Street currently slightly impeded by building works Stratford Place quickly yields its secrets. At its end Stratford House is a late eighteen century mansion built for the Earl of Stratford but only occupied by him between 1770 and 1776.” [Trip Advisor]

Today, Hertford House, which was built by the 4th Duke of Manchester between 1776 and 1788 is home to the Wallace Collection, a national museum housing unsurpassed masterpieces of painting, sculpture, furniture, arms and armour, and porcelain. It has been considerably altered from its original form with the addition of galleries to accommodate the art. It is open to the public and has a lovely café.

Below, the 2nd Marquess of Hertford, 1743-1822, a member of the Seymour family headed by the Duke of Somerset, bought Manchester House, and renamed it Hertford House in 1797.

a drawing of Hertford House, circa 1812, from the Wallace Collection

According to Georgian Cities, “Estates granted by the King to members of the Court, from Henry VIII onwards, were freeholds that could be sublet by an act of Parliament, to attract groups of developers to finance building. The lords of the manor designed streets and squares, then they granted leases to develop the estate.

“In the first half of the century, the plots were sublet to the nobility and gentry who would build their own houses on them, usually in different styles like detached country houses though they were adjacent (as a surviving example, see Berkeley Square in Mayfair). In the later 18th century, they were sublet to builders who would recoup their expenditure by letting the houses, which led to the uniform design and terraced houses of the later Georgian era, their unified palatial appearance corresponding to architects’ overall plans and being better in keeping with the tastes of professional people (the best surviving example being Bedford Square in Bloomsbury).”

Certain building regulations were put into practice and into law.

  1. After the Great Fire of 1666, the height of houses was set as follows:
Post-fire Building Regulations
The prescribed heights of houses, as decreed in the 1667 Rebuilding Act
Hugh Clout, The Times London History Atlas, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, 1991

Historic UK tells us, “The 1667 and 1670 Rebuilding Acts enshrined a series of procedures which acted on this sentiment. As a measure against the incidence of large fires, new buildings were to be built in brick or stone, with the use of flammable materials restricted. To halt the spread of flames, jettying upper storeys or protruding signs were banned and party walls mandated. Four distinct classes of building type were described in the legislation too, determined by their proximity to large thoroughfares and newly-widened streets, standardizing the dimensions as well as the materials of the rebuilt City.

2. The streets were widened and paved.

Also from Historic UK: “In addition to laying the foundations for an urban architectural vernacular which, through the actions of developers like Nicholas Barbon, informed the design of the now ubiquitous London townhouse, these measures had a demonstrable effect on perceptions of cleanliness and metropolitan health. Indeed, for a number late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century observers, the rebuilding of London amounted to an experiment in early modern sanitation.

“This was understood according to contemporary standards of public health and medicine. In an offshoot of miasmatic theories, for example, wider streets were felt to ease the passage and so dispel the effects of ‘bad air’ caused by filth, disease, and atmospheric pollution. ‘[S]ince the Enlargement of the Streets, and modern Way of Building’, one mid-eighteenth-century writer explained, ‘by the Re-edifying of London there is such a free Circulation of sweet Air thro’ the Streets, that offensive Vapours are expelled, and the City free from all pestilential Symptoms for these eighty-nine Years’.”

3. An Act of Parliament in 1707 stated that wooden roofs had to be surrounded by a stone parapet.

In a properly built wooden house the upper floors jetty out beyond the lower ones, so that the rain can drip off instead of running into the joint between the posts and causing rot.

Building Wooden Houses tells us, “These fine old buildings still exist in Holborn, at the end of Gray’s Inn Road. The lower floors are shops and up above, the different floors each jetty out beyond the one below. Rain drips away safely from each floor and the building stays dry.

“You can tell how old the buildings are by the pavement level. When the original pavement was laid it would have been slightly below the floors of the shops, yet today we step down into them. Each time the pavement has been repaired, it has risen slightly. The new pavings have been placed on top of the old with fresh layers of gravel and sand. Pavements in old towns can rise as much as a foot (15 centimetres) a century.

“This, and the thatched roof, made a series of steps which trapped any fire. Houses started burning fiercely and then it was easy for the fire to spread from house to house. Wooden cities all over the world have had devastating fires.

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, new Building Regulations were imposed and they, repeatedly updated, have governed London building ever since. All houses were to be in brick or stone; no wooden eaves were allowed – roofs were pushed back behind brick parapets; wooden window frames were reduced and later recessed behind brick; thatch was forbidden; party walls between houses had to be thick enough to withstand two hours of fire, to give the neighbours a chance of extinguishing the blaze. The face of London was changed for ever.

“A few years ago a short row of houses in Essex Road, at the corner of Dagmar Terrace, in Essex Road, was restored. The original houses had been built in the early 18th century in the new Fire Regulations style. The brick walls rose to above the bottom edges of the roof to form pediments. Roof timbers were short and safely protected behind the brick pediments. During the restoration the roof timbers were examined. They had old joints in them, now not used. New joints had been cut, but it was clear that the beams came from a much older house. The new house was in brick, with a parapet wall to conform to the new building regulations, but its main floor and roof joists had been salvaged from an earlier wooden building. This beam may have come from some old demolished house in the City of London when wooden houses were banned. It is a very old piece of wood that could have watched Dick Whittington ride by.”

4. In 1709, an Act of Parliament stipulated that window wooden frames should no longer be flush with the walls, but recessed.

The windows of the house in Bedford Square have wooden frames of the earlier style, flush with the façade.

Whereas those of the house in Queen Anne’s Gate conform to the new regulations and are recessed so as to be better insulated within the brickwork and avoid propagating fire; these recessed frames cast stronger shadows.

5. In 1761 the Lighting and Paving Act was passed. The paving of streets had started in Westminster.

Paving of streets
Illustration from John Gay’s Trivia (1716)
The poem describes the characters and sights of a London street.

6. The Building Act of 1774 classified the houses in four ‘rates’ and regulated the building materials and fireproofing.

Wikipedia tells us, “In order to lay down hard and fast, standardised rules of construction it was necessary to categorise London buildings into separate classes or “rates”. Each rate had to conform to its own structural code for foundations, thicknesses of external and party walls, and the positions of windows in outside walls. For all rates, the 1774 Act stipulated that all external window joinery was hidden behind the outer skin of masonry, as a precaution against fire. It also regulated the construction of hearths and chimneys.

“The Act determined seven types of building construction graded by ground area occupied and value. The four rates applicable to houses predicted the likely social class of their occupants.

  • A “First Rate” House was valued at over £850, and occupied an area on the ground plan of more than nine “squares of building” (900 square feet (84 m2)). These houses were typically for the “nobility” or “gentry”. The occupants would frequently not own the house, but would rent and use it as their townhouse as a temporary alternative to their larger country house.
  • A “Second Rate” House was valued at between £300 and £850, and occupied an area on the ground plan of between five and nine “squares of building” (500–900 square feet (46–84 m2)). These houses were typically for “professional” men, “gentleman of good fortune”, or “merchants”, and might face notable streets or the River Thames.
  • A “Third Rate” House was smaller and valued at between £150 and £300, and occupied an area on the ground plan of between three and a half and nine “squares of building” (350–500 square feet (33–46 m2)). These houses were typically for “clerks”, and faced principal streets.
  • A “Fourth Rate” House was valued at less than £150, and occupied an area on the ground plan of less than three-and-a-half “squares of building” (350 square feet (33 m2)). These houses were typically for “mechanics” or “artisans”, and would be found in minor streets.

“All external woodwork, including ornament, was banished, except where it was necessary for shopfronts and doorcases. Bowed shop windows were made to draw in to a 10 inches (250 mm) or less projection. Window joinery which previous legislation had already pushed back from the wall face was now concealed in recesses to avoid the spread of fire.”

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Geography of the Earth in Specific “Terms”

Of late, I have been exploring words of which I was not familiar and in a variety of topics. Today, I bring you words dealing with geography. Many we are hearing something of on a daily basis on TV with many sounding the alarm for climate change. Mother Earth. Whose demise we can foresee. Most of us know, for example, something of a rainforest, a valley, topography, a mountain, a lagoon, and even a fjord (thank you to Disney for adding this word to kids’ vocabulary via “Frozen”). Yet, of late, I have heard some geographical terms of which I was not so familiar, as well as some I had not considered for more years than I can to confess. Perhaps you, also, could use a refresher course. Some of these I knew. Some are new to me and perhaps to you.

Ria – a drowned river valley, forming a long, narrow, funnel-shaped inlet at right angles to the sea. Likely the most famous one of which I can think is Port Jackson, also referred to as Sydney Harbour. It is a ria, or drowned river valley. The deeply indented shape of the ria reflects the dendritic pattern of drainage that existed before the rise in sea level that flooded the valley.

Pingo – A hillock produced in polar regions by an underground ice “blister” pushing up the surface above.

The Pingos of Tuktoyaktuk ~ https///

Talga – An area of coniferous evergreen forest lying south of the tundra in Europe and Asia.

Jack London Lake — at Kolyma, Magadan Oblast, far eastern Russia. Pinus pumila in foreground, Taiga forests in backround. https///

Karst – Limestone landscape with a largely bare, rocky surface and rivers that flow through underground caves.

Onondaga-Cave-State-Park-2000ps.jpg ~ https///

These next two are closely connected, so I will add them together.

Karst – A high block of land between parallel faults, caused by the block having risen or the land on either side having sunk.

Graben (or Rift Valley) – A long narrow trough where land has sunk between two in-facing parallel faults (also known as a graben).

Cross-sectional-diagram-depicting-horst-and-graben-structure-and-behavior-typical ~ https///

Guyot – A flat-topped submarine mountain formed by a subsiding volcanic island.

The Bear Seamount (left), a guyot in the northern Atlantic Ocean – Wikipedia

Hogback – A long narrow ridge which is steep on both sides.

Grand Hogback – via Colorado Mt. College https///

Desertification (I could have figures this one out with the word “desert” at the beginning . . .) – The process by which land that has been farmed or inhabited becomes changed into desert, usually through climatic change or over-farming.

in Africa – https///

Cirque – A mountain hollow eroded by snow and ice. It may contain snow or a lake.

the National Park Service ~

Cuesta – A ridge with a steep slope on one side and a gentle dip slope on the other.

Magaliesberg Range, Transvaal, South Africa ~

Glaciation – The effects on land of ice sheets or glaciers that erode rocks and deposit the rock debris.

Llano – A large area of usually treeless, grassy plain in South America or the southern U.S.

Northwest escarpment of the Llano Estacado (plateau at left) overlooking Alamogordo Valley (lowlands at right) of Quay and Guadalupe counties, Eastern New Mexico.

Drumlin – A half-egg-shaped hill of glacial deposits, formed under moving glacial ice.

fotonoticia https///

Erg – An area in the desert where there are shifting sand dunes, for example in the Sahara.

Erg Chigaga, Morocco ~

This last one, most of us know, but the Coriolls force appears to be more in the news these days with excessive rain, snow, tornadoes, etc. The Coriolls force refers to the tendency of the Earth’s rotation to turn winds and currents to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere.

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The Privilege of Peerage in Avoiding Punishment

I had another writer send me a message to ask what would happen to a peer if he and a young lady ran off to Scotland together. “I wish to know if there is a legal means to punish him for abducting her. Would the law of the land punish him?”

First, it was important to clarify whether the girl had gone willingly with the man or whether it was a true incident of abduction.

In reality, there were fewer options for this type of crime. Again, some issues are whether the “abductor” was an actual peer or was he, say, the son of a peer?

This information might change a bit depending on the options above: peer vs. son of a peer. Remember, a son of a peer was not extended the privileges of his father.

If the abductor was a peer, one could engage a good barrister who would move for a warrant for the peer’s arrest for abduction. The man would be arrested and kept in a jail until transported to the Tower of London to await trial. If Parliament was not in session, it could take, at least, a fortnight to build the room for the trial.

The lawyers could argue as to whether or not this was to be a trial in the House of Lords (meaning for a peer) or one in the regular court at assize (for the son of a peer, but “could” extend to the peer himself).

The truth is the barristers and the court system could, figuratively, tie him up legally for a long time. A peer might be under house arrest rather than detention in the Tower, but a good solicitor and/or barrister could keep him tied up in legal wrangles for a time, not counting the expense of lawyers. Worse yet, this would all be reported in the newspapers, which is where the “real trial” was taking place – a “trial” of a “jury” of the man’s actual “peers.”

If the issue was, by chance, a matter of debts rather than abduction or some such crime, the family or friends could buy up the man’s debts. A peer could not be thrown into debtors’ prison, but could have property confiscated and sold out from under him, so it would be advisable to secure as much of the property as possible.

The villain, Robert Lovelace, abducting Clarissa Harlowe – Public Domain ~

The privilege of peerage regarding punishment was partially a protection for rank.

In many ways being shunned by the society of his peers and blacklisted by many . . . cast out of Society was a greater punishment.

In that day and age, being sent to Coventry was more serious for many than jail. “To send someone to Coventry is an idiom used in England meaning to deliberately ostracise someone. Typically, this is done by not talking to them, avoiding their company, and acting as if they no longer exist. In essence, and by modern parlance, to ‘blank’ someone. Coventry is a cathedral city historically in Warwickshire. The origins of this phrase are unknown, although it is quite probable that events in Coventry in the English Civil War in the 1640s play a part. One hypothesis as to its origin is based upon The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, by Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon. In this work, Clarendon recalls how Royalist troops that were captured in Birmingham were taken as prisoners to Coventry, which was a Parliamentarian stronghold. These troops were often not received warmly by the locals.” [Send to Coventry]

The man would probably escape to the Continent before any charges could be laid, anyway.

Not all crimes allowed a use of privilege, which was close to the Benefit of clergy that everyone else could use without the farce of the neck verse. The woman’s father or guardian would generally have to bring the suit. Unless she was of age, the charge would be abduction.

The problem would not be that the man might escape punishment by privilege of peerage so much as that a trial would ruin the woman. All would assume he had raped her during the time they were together. Also, many would feel her male relatives should challenge the man to a duel, rather than to demand a trial. The trouble with duels is that the bullets do not know right from wrong, and the young lady’s family would be the ones in trouble if arrested for dueling.

For the most part, the punishment of the peer is unlikely to be more than social shunning and a monetary fine, assuming the woman was returned unharmed. There would no need to hang the man, in the view of the peerage, and, naturally, they would not wish to set a precedence regarding transporting a peer.

The trouble is that there were few degrees of punishment: They ranged from the stocks or pillory to a short stay in jail to hanging or to transportation. What should have been the punishment if two foolish people ran off together? Most assuredly, if the woman was truly kidnapped and did not leave her home of her own free will, the situation escalates.

It would degrade the whole peerage to have the man undergo anything except hanging, and that punishment was designed for murder and treason. Legally, the House of Lords cannot rescind his peerage. He is still “Lord So-and-so” until he takes his last breath, whether that is in 5 years or 50.

So while the law did not excuse the peers from punishment for their crimes, other circumstances did. It would be assumed a large fine would take care of the matter, and the lord’s fellow peers would keep their daughters away from him and likely suggest he take a long sea voyage until the matter could be forgotten. The peer would find his social circle diminished, as none wanted to have known an abductor one’s their daughters.

If, by rare chance, the girl’s family or the authorities brought charges against the peer’s ally, the girl would still be the one to suffer, for all would know the peer and the woman had been together on the road to Scotland for several nights. Her reputation would be in shreds. Over the years, some parents and guardians forced girls to marry the abductor to reduce the scandal. The distance to Scotland meant the couple had to spend a couple of nights on the road . . . approximately 5 nights from London to the Scottish border and Gretna Green. Perhaps more, depending on the weather.

It is not any privilege of peerage that would stop a trial moving forward, it is the scandal it would cause for the young woman. She would be ruined. This is one of these “fun” cases where, I might suggest, her betrothed (if she had one before the abduction) and her relatives would get to extract their own “special” punishment. Such would be a scene I might enjoy writing.

Some Interesting Sources to Pursue for Actual Cases:

Clandestine Marriages: Five tales of abduction from the 17th and 18th centuries

Elopement in Georgian England: Catherine Grierson and Thomas Thomasson (1781)

Henry Fielding’s attempted abduction of Sarah Andrew

Kidnap and Attempted Murder in the 18th Century: Viscount Valentia’s ancestry

Posted in aristocracy, British history, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, laws of the land, Regency era, Regency romance, research, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thank a Veteran This Memorial Day … “Some Gave All”


In 1868, Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a memorial day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

For a sampling of the sources available on the history of Memorial Day, start here:

The U.S. Army’s Airborne and Special Operations Museum

History Channel 

The Library of Congress

U. S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Billy Ray Cyrus singing “Some Gave All” 

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Letchworth, the World’s First Garden City

As those of you who follow me regularly know, I am a Pride and Prejudice fan, then you must realize I am exceedingly interested in any little bit of information that comes my way regarding Hertfordshire, the home shire of the novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. 

Letchworth was a “city” envisioned by Ebenezer Howard, who had the notion to relieve the crowded conditions of London’s slum. He was supported in his efforts by prominent Quakers and by what was known as the Arts and Crafts Movement. The idea was to provide clean industries, low-rent housing, services to the poor, a healthy country “air” environment. Howard advocated the construction of a new kind of town, summed up in his three magnets diagram as combining the advantages of cities and the countryside while eliminating their disadvantages. Industry would be kept separate from residential areas—such zoning was a new idea at the time—and trees and open spaces would prevail everywhere.

The original Letchworth was a small, ancient parish. St Mary the Virgin, the parish church, was built around the latter part of the 12th Century or early 13th Century. The village was located along the road now called Letchworth Lane, stretching from St Mary’s and the adjoining medieval manor house (now Letchworth Hall Hotel) up to the crossroads of Letchworth Lane, Hitchin Road, Baldock Road and Spring Road, where there was a post office. Letchworth was a relatively small parish, having a population in 1801 of 67, rising to 96 by 1901.

Ebenezer_Howard.jpg Along comes Sir Ebenezer Howard, OBE, who in 1898 had written a book entitled To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform, which was the groundwork for Howard’s first Garden City, a utopian city in which people lived harmoniously together with nature. Other Garden Cities followed: Welwyn Garden City, also in Hertfordshire, (1920), and those in other countries, Forest Hills Gardens (in the borough of Queens, New York), designed by F. L. Olmsted, Jr. (1909), Radburn, New Jersey, (1923), and the Suburban Resettlement Programs towns of the 1930s, including Greenbelt, Maryland; Greenhills, Ohio; Greenbrook, New Jersey; Greendale, Wisconsin; and Canberra, Australia (1913). [Stern, Robert (1981). The Anglo American Suburb. London: Architectural Design Profile. pp. 84, 85.]

“According to the book the term ‘garden city’ derived from the image of a city being situated within a belt of open countryside (which would contribute significantly to food production for the population), and not, as is commonly cited, to a principle that every house in the city should have a garden.

“The concept outlined in the book is not simply one of urban planning, but also included a system of community management. For example, the Garden City project would be financed through a system that Howard called ‘Rate-Rent,’ which combined financing for community services (rates) with a return for those who had invested in the development of the city (rent). The book also advocated a rudimentary form of competitive tendering, whereby the municipality would purchase services, such as water, fuel, waste disposal, etc., from (often local) commercial providers. These systems were never fully implemented, in Letchworth, Welwyn or their numerous imitators.” [Letchworth]


Ebenezer Howard’s “Three Magnets” diagram, 1898 Copyright status This was published in the book Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform in 1898, and so is now out of copyright. The text The text reads: THE THREE MAGNETS THE PEOPLE Where will they go? Town Closing out of nature. Social opportunity. Isolation of crowds. Places of amusement. Distance from work. High money wages. High rents & prices. Chances of employment. Excessive hours. Army of unemployed. Fogs and droughts. Costly drainage. Foul air. Murky sky. Well-lit streets. Slums & gin palaces. Palatial edifices. Country Lack of society. Beauty of nature. Hands out of work. Land lying idle. Trespassers beware. Wood, meadow, forest. Long hours, low wages. Fresh air. Low rents. Lack of drainage. Abundance of water. Lack of amusement. Bright sunshine. No public spirit. Need for reform. Crowded dwellings. Deserted villages. Town-Country Beauty of nature. Social opportunity. Fields and parks of easy access. Low rents, high wages. Low rates, plenty to do. Low prices, no sweating. Field for enterprise, flow of capital. Pure air and water, good drainage. Bright homes & gardens, no smoke, no slums. Freedom. Co-operation.

A competition was held to find a town design which could translate Howard’s ideas into reality.  Richard Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin were appointed architects, and 6 square miles (16 km²) of land outside Hitchin were purchased for building. The town was divided into three zones, with industrial areas kept well away from the residential sections. In keeping with the ideals only one tree was felled during the entire initial construction phase of the town, and an area devoted to agriculture surrounding the town was included in the plan – the first “Green Belt.” Additional contests were held to secure builders for inexpensive housing, which attracted some 60,000 visitors. This had a significant impact on what we now refer to as “pre-fabricated” building techniques. It also alter the ideas regarding gardens in the yards, both floral and vegetable. The exhibitions were sponsored by the Daily Mail, and their popularity was significant in the development of that newspaper’s launching of the Ideal Home Exhibition (which has more recently become the Ideal Home Show) – the first of which took place the year after the second Cheap Cottages Exhibition.

Railways often brought sight-seers to the town, who found the social experiment both interesting and amusing. Letchworth’s founding citizens, attracted by the promise of a better life, were often caricatured by outsiders as idealistic and otherworldly. John Betjeman in his poems Group Life: Letchworth and Huxley Hall painted Letchworth people as earnest health freaks. The idea of banning pubs was often criticized, for example.

Spirella Building A view of this magnificent former corset factory, now a base for small businesses. To me this restoration shows how a great old building can be retained in all its glory, sympathetically modernised inside with high quality design, and thus serve a useful purpose in the twenty-first century.

The Spirella Company, the maker of ladies’ corsets, built a large factor close to the town’s middle in 1912. Despite its central location, the Spirella Building complements the town’s other buildings. It resembles a large country house, complete with towers and a ballroom. During WWII, the factory was also produced parachutes and decoding machines. Because corsets fell out of fashion, the factory closed in the 1980s, and was eventually refurbished and converted into offices.

Shelvoke and Drewry, a manufacturer of dustcarts and fire engines was part of Letchworth from 1922 to 1990. Hands, another of the industries found in Letchworth, manufactured axles, brakes, and Hands Trailers. Other such industries included Kryn & Lahy Steel Foundry, the Irvine’s Airchutes Parachute Factory, and British book publisher, J. M. Dent and Son. 

British Tabulating Machine Company (later International Computers Limited) was one of the largest employers in the area, with over 30 factory sites along Icknield Way and the surrounding area. 

Other Resources:

Letchworth, England (Britannica)

Letchworth Garden City: Heritage Foundation

Re-Imagining the Garden City 

Spatial Agency: Letchworth Garden City 



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Colonel Matthew Locke, an Advocate for Universal Manhood Suffrage

On Friday, May 19, I presented you with the celebration of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. On Monday, May 22, I included an article on Captain James Jack, who was not as famous as Paul Revere, but just as heroic. Today, I have another Revolutionary War hero: Colonel Matthew Locke. 

300px-Locke-1591.jpg Colonel Matthew Locke was a Revolutionary War leader, as well as a member of Congress, who just happened to have been born in Northern Ireland. Like many in the present day North Carolina, Locke’s ancestors first settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A few years after his father died, his mother married a man by the name of John Brandon and moved to Anson County, North Carolina. Anson is the next county over from I live outside of Charlotte, and I can tell you there is LOTS of history to found in this area. Later, around 1752, the Brandons moved to Grants Creek, which was part of Mecklenburg County at that time, but is now part of Rowan County, North Carolina. 

Meanwhile, Matthew Locke purchased some 200 acres near his mother and step-father’s residence, where he began a trading business. Matthew and his brother Francis set up a trade line, including skins from the backcountry of Charles Town, South Carolina, and goods produced by the North Carolina Moravian settlements. He and his brother became quite wealthy in this venture. 

Locke’s first foray into public life came during the Regulator uprising. The Regulator Movement was a rebellion started by the backcountry (inland regions) residents of North Carolina (basically the western counties – those backing against the mountain range separating them from present day Tennessee – remember, at one time, North Carolina territory went as far west as the current day Nashville, Tennessee). These dissidents believed the royal government mistreated them by falsifying records and imposing excessive fees. The less productive land of the western mountain ranges were taxed at the same rate as the rich coastal plain. These inland residents wished to “regulate” their own affairs. Although the Regulator Movement began with protests, eventually violence was involved. 

Locke became involved when the officers of Rowan County appointed Locke as one of four men to meet with the Regulators’ contingent to attempt to come to some sort of agreement. Through sometimes heated negotiations, Locke’s committee agreed to repay any unlawful fees to those bringing suit. Liking the taste of public office, Locke became a member of the colonial Assembly in 1771, where he served until 1775. 

During the Revolutionary War period, Locke joined the Patriot cause. He was named to Rowan County’s first Committee of Safety. The purpose of the Committees of Safety were to enforce the Continental Association banning all trade with Great Britain. These committees had the endorsement of the Second Provincial Congress of North Carolina and the North Carolina Assembly. They existed in late 1774 and early 1775. These committees oversaw military preparations, the control of the price of select items, especially those needed for war efforts, and the sell of seized imported goods. They also were involved in the return of slaves, punishment for those who went against the Continental Association’s dictates, and even regulated public morals. The Wilmington-New Hanover Committee of Safety managed to run then Governor Josiah Martin out of office, causing him to first seek refuge at Fort Johnston on the Cape Fear River and then on the British warship Cruizer. The Committees of Safety were replaced by the Third Provincial Congress of North Carolina in August 1775. 

Matthew Locke was a delegate to the Third Provincial Congress. He was active in the financing of the case for liberty. He also saw to the militia stationed throughout North Carolina. Locke made the arrangements for governing the colony in Governor Josiah Martin’s abrupt absence until Governor Richard Caswell took over the office. 

Later, Locke was a member of the Fourth Provincial Congress (April 1776). This time the group met at Halifax. Out of their sometimes heated discussions came the Halifax Resolves, which was the first official action by one of British colonies calling for a break with Great Britain and the independence of all the colonies. 83 delegates to the Provincial Congress ratified the Resolves. They were then sent to the North Carolina delegation for the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The Halifax Resolves served as the first call for action against Britain. Virginia followed with their own recommendations to the Continental Congress. These led to Thomas Jefferson’s penning The Declaration of Independence.

Locke then became involved with a group probing the activities of those not supporting a break from Great Britain. Reportedly, Locke led the arrest of John Dunn, the founder of Salisbury, and Benjamin Booth, both of whom were suspected of treason, because early on they had signed a document pledging loyalty to the King. 

queens-university-of-charlotte_8790753498_o.jpgCarolina’s first state constitution was drafted. He was in charge of the militia pay of six frontier counties. He procured supplies for the Continental Army. He served in the North Carolina House of Commons on and off from 1777 to 1793. He was known to support universal manhood suffrage, an idea to remove owning property as a right to vote and holding office, in other words, removing the stipulation of ownership of 50 acres of property or the payment of taxes as a prerequisite to vote. He also supported the endowment of Queen’s Museum (later Queen’s College and now Queen’s University) in Charlotte, which is considered the first institution of higher learning in North Carolina. [Just as a side note, my daughter-in-law earned her masters degree at Queens, and my son was an assistant track and cross country coach at the college. It is still a vibrant piece of Charlotte’s history.] In the vote to ratify the U. S. Constitution, Locke took a stand for the new country’s many farmers, who could not afford an expensive, nor oppressive, government. 

In 1793, Locke replace the unpopular Josh Steele, a Federalist, as the congressman for the Salisbury district. He was considered “the honest farmer” and took a leading role in the concept of Jeffersonian democracy in North Carolina. He remained in the NC House of Representatives until 1800, to another Federalist, Archibald Henderson. He died in 1801. 


Gen Matthew Locke BIRTH 1730 Ireland DEATH 7 Sep 1801 (aged 70–71) Mill Bridge, Rowan County, North Carolina, USA BURIAL Thyatira Presbyterian Church Cemetery Mill Bridge, Rowan County, North Carolina, USA ~

Following Locke’s death, an obituary in the Raleigh Register edited by Joseph Gales, a staunch Jeffersonian, bemoaned the passing and called him a “friend and fixed Republican” who had “served his state admirably in Congress.” He was buried in Thyatira Presbyterian Church cemetery in Rowan County.

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Captain James Jack, Hero of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence

Captain-Jack-Statue-CharlotteOn Friday, May 19, I presented you a piece on the first Declaration of Independence, a year before Thomas Jefferson’s document. Today, permit me to introduce you to the hero of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, Captain James Jack. 

Born in 1731, Jack was was the oldest of nine children of Patrick and Lillis McAdoo Jack. Rumors say his grandfather was Reverend William Jack of Laggan Presbyterian in Northern Ireland. Reverend Jack was removed from his post by King Charles II for issues of nonconformity to the dictates of the Church of England. The Jacks lived southwest of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, (close to where I once lived) but they left the area during The French and Indian War, moving to North Carolina. 

Around 1760, the Jacks located in Thyatira, one of the first Presbyterian communities to be established west of the Yadkin River. The current Thyatira Presbyterian Church is located ten miles west of Salisbury, North Carolina, and is thought to have been founded around 1753. It was known over the years as Lower Meeting House and as Cathey’s Meeting House. The community surrounding it were of Scotch-Irish and German descent. [As a side note, several of my ancestors were part of this community.] Thyatira took more of an “old school” approach to the church services, ignoring the exuberance of the Great Awakening. One of the church’s most well-known ministers was Samuel McCorkle, who took over the reins in August 1777. McCorkle was a great proponent of religion and of education. He established what is thought to be the first normal school in America, Zion-Parnassus Academy.  In 1798, when the then-fledgling University of North Carolina held its first commencement, six of the seven graduates were from Zion-Parnassus.

89317463_135423440704.png In 1766, James Jack married Margaret Houston, and the couple soon moved to Charlotte, where the elder Mr. Jack had purchased lots on the south side of West Trade Street. The family built a house on one of the lots and operated a tavern out of it. James Jack earn a fortune from real estate speculation. He was later appointed as a tax collector, as well as an overseer of the poor in Mecklenburg County. [Note: The county of Mecklenburg and the city of Charlotte were named after King George III’s queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg.]

Tensions grew across the colonies over the pronouncements by the British Parliament and King George III, and North Carolinians struggled with their loyalty to the King and their desire to govern themselves. According to, “​On May 19, 1775, a rider raced into Charlottetowne with news of the massacre of colonists by the British at the Battle of Concord and Lexington. Angered at this news and already burdened by the oppressive, unjust laws of King George III, tradition says a band of local patriots met through the night and into May 20th to draft the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (or MecDec). On May 31, they met again to draft a set of Resolves that outlined how they would self govern. These treasonous documents declared the actions of the Crown were intolerable and Charlottetowne and Mecklenburg County were no longer under British rule.

“…Captain James Jack volunteered to take these powerful documents on the arduous journey to the Continental Congress. Knowing full well that if caught he would be immediately hung; he risked his livelihood, property, family and very life to transport these important documents. Slipping past British regulars and spying Tories, Jack arrived in Philadelphia, demanding Mecklenburg County’s declaration of freedom be read into record. Just as Paul Revere’s famous ride alerted patriots to the British landing in Boston, James Jack’s ride helped kindle the embers of revolution in the Continental Congress.”

The MecDec and the Resolves declared British authority over those in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, to be null and void. James Jack and his father were strong supporters of the call for independence. Reportedly, many of the Committee of Safety meetings were conducted at the Jacks’ tavern. NCpedia tells us, ” Jack recalled that ‘for some time previous to, and at the time of those resolutions [of May 1775] were agreed to, I . . . was priviledged to a number of meetings of some of the . . . leading characters of that county on the subject before the final adoption of the resolutions.'” 


Painting of Captain Jack riding north to Philadelphia to deliver the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The courthouse can be seen behind Jack in the distance. Courtesy of Chas Fagan.

James Jack set out on his famous ride in June 1775, stopping briefly in Salisbury, North Carolina, to have the document read publicly into the records of the district court session. After a journey of nearly 600 miles through the Appalachian mountains and flatland, he reached Philadelphia, where Jack presented the North Carolina delegates to the Continental Congress with the Mecklenburg County document. Although the delegates agreed with the document’s sentiment, the Continental Congress at the time still hoped for a reconciliation with England. They chose not to inform the other delegations to the Congress of the Mecklenburg action.

Charlotte-Liberty-Walk.jpgCaptain James Jack returned to his home in Charlottetowne on July 7 of the same year. He rode an average of 30 miles each day—hard riding for the time and the geographic challenges—completing his journey of some 1100 miles in 38 days.

James Jack was a popular captain in the Mecklenburg militia during the Revolutionary War. As a warning, Lord Cornwallis had Jack’s s father removed from the man’s sick bed and kept in a damp cell for questioning. The elder Mr. Jacks died shortly afterwards (September 1780). The Jack home was burned to the ground. The tavern was rebuilt, but the financial loss, in addition to Jack’s personal money spent for wartime expenditures (some £7,646), which was never reimbursed, left him in ruin. Ironically, Jack’s claim was was paid to a friend, who died before delivering the money to Jack. 

89317463_133618159621.jpg With the war’s end, Jack moved his family to the western part of North Carolina, which at the time stretched all the way to present-day Nashville. He signed the petition to the North Carolina Assembly to make North Carolina a separate state. Later, he moved to what is now Wilkes County, Georgia, where he was not so successful as a farmer. Finally, he and his wife Margaret moved again to neighboring Elbert County, to live with their son William and live out their days. James Jack died in December 1822. His obituary lists his age at death as being 84, but in December 1819, he wrote of being 88 years of age. Therefore, he was like 91 years old at his death. 

The History of Charlotte (You Tube)

Mec Dec Day (You Tube)

Trail of History (You Tube)

The following is the obituary for Captain James Jack from the Raleigh Registe of January 17, 1823. “Died.- In Elbert County, Georgia, on the 18th instant (ultimo), Captain James Jack, in the 84th year of his age. He was born in the State of Pennsylvania, from whence he removed to North Carolina and settled in the town of Charlotte, where he remained till the end of the Revolutionary War, in which he took a decided and active part from the commencement to the close, after which he removed to Georgia with his family, whom he supported by the sweat of his brow. He spent the prime of his life and his little all in the glorious struggle for independence, and enjoyed it with a heart warmed with gratitude to the God of battles. In the spring of ’75 he was the bearer of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to Congress. His claims on the State of North Carolina for Revolutionary services and expenditures were audited by Colonel Mathew Locke, and amounted to 7,646 pounds in currency. Those papers being of little value at that time, he left them in the hands of a friend, who dying some years after, the claim to him was lost. It fell, possibly, into the hands of some speculator, who may by now faring sumptuously on the fruits of his toil. But wealth had no charm for him; he looked for a ‘house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God.’ He has left a widow, two sons (his eldest, Colonel Patrick Jack, of the U. S. Army in her late contest with Britain, having died about two years past), a daughter besides a numerous offspring of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Some few of his old comrades who bore the burden and the heat of the day are still living. Should this notice catch the eye of any one of them, it may draw forth a sigh or elicit a tear to the memory of their friend, more to be valued than a marble monument.”

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The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, a Year Before Thomas Jefferson’s Document

Some of you realize, I live in North Carolina, a state draped in rich history. One of those events is the the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. A year before Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration,” there was Meck-Dec, as we in the area fondly call it. 

Johann_Georg_Ziesenis_-_Queen_Charlotte_when_Princess,_Royal_Collection.jpgAfter the French and Indian War, King George and the British Parliament sometimes ignored the American colonies and sometimes saw them as a source of income for the numerous wars in which they engaged. The Stamp Act and the taxes on tea, however, provoke the colonists into breaking with Great Britain. When the British Army occupied Boston and close the port, word of the aggression quickly spread, even to the backwoods of Mecklenburg County in North Carolina. Not liking what they heard, those within the county authorized Colonel Thomas Polk, the commander of the county militia, to call a meeting where the “aggression” might be discussed. Two representatives were named by each of the nine militia companies within the county. Whatever decision theses men would make would be binding on the county’s citizens. These men met at the county courthouse, which was located in Charlotte, a town named for King George III’s queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

This meeting took place on Friday, 19 May 1775. Imagine how these men felt when an express rider, on the very day of the meeting, brought word of the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord. The news that British soldiers had killed and wounded British citizens (which was what the Americans considered themselves at the time) brought a new urgency to the discussion taking place in Charlotte. 

Out of these discussion came the five resolutions that make up the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. It was sent to the North Carolina representative at the Continental Congress, and it declared that Mecklenburg County had separated from the Great Britain. 

mecklenburg_declaration.jpgThe five resolutions explained how Great Britain had “wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties and inhumanly shed the innocent blood of American patriots at Lexington.” It went on the say, we “dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the Mother country” and declare ourselves “a free and independent people.”  The laws were to remain the same but “The Crown of Great Britain never can be considered as holding rights, privileges, immunities, or authority therein.”  To read the complete text of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, click here.


“This document was read from the courthouse steps the next day at noon to the acclamation of a large assembly of Mecklenburg citizens.  Everyone knew of the meeting on Friday the 19th and that whatever resulted, the news would be read out from the courthouse steps on Saturday.  The news of Lexington and Concord greatly increased the people’s interest.  Since the decisions made here would be binding on all of the citizens of the county, people came from far and wide to hear the news.

presentationThumbnail.jpg“Even as they were debating and approving what came to be known as The Mecklenburg Declaration, the delegates had realized that it lacked coherence and organization and they appointed a committee to revise it.  By May 31st the committee had completed their work which was not a revision but rather a completely new document, and which came to be called the Mecklenburg Resolves.  This new document was less emotional, more logical, and much better organized than the original:

  • The introduction states the reason for declaring independence:  Parliament had declared the Colonies to be in a state of rebellion, thereby annulling the King’s authority and forcing the colonies to provide for their own governance.
  • The first three resolves remove all royal officers, suspend all royal laws and place all legislative and judicial powers in the Congress of each Province.
  • Resolves 4-15 lay out laws governing the Militia and the courts of justice and is concerned mostly with debts, rents and taxes.
  • Numbers 16 and 17 deal with the punishment of those who remain loyal to the King and Parliament.
  • Number 18 says that these resolves are in force until the NC Provincial Congress says otherwise, or until Great Britain changes its attitude toward the Colonies.
  • Number 19 says that everyone should arm themselves and be ready for action.
  • And finally resolve number 20 directs Col. Thomas Polk and Dr. Joseph Kennedy to buy 300 pounds of gunpowder, 600 pounds of lead and 1,000 flints on behalf of the county.

 17461.33608.jpg“In short, finding themselves declared outlaws by the King, they set up their own government and prepared to defend themselves.  And note that they did this not just for Mecklenburg County, but for the whole thirteen colonies.  To read the complete text of the Mecklenburg Resolves, click here.

Captain-Jack-Statue-Charlotte.jpg“On about June 1, 1775 Militia Captain James Jack set off for Philadelphia with both documents to lay them before the Second Continental Congress then meeting in that city.  When he returned he said that the representatives from North Carolina had read and approved the documents.  However, at that time the Congress was debating and approving a petition to the King asking for reconciliation so the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was forgotten and not head from outside of Mecklenburg County for many years.” (James Williams, June 10, 2008, The Mecklenburg Historical Association)


Also See: 

Blythe, Legette; Brockman, Charles Raven (1961). “Mecklenburg Resolves, Preamble and Resolution 2”. Hornet’s Nest: The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Charlotte, NC: Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. p. 429.

Charlotte’s Liberty Walk

Graham, George Washington (1905). The Mecklenburg Declaration Of Independence, May 20, 1775, And Lives Of Its Signers. The Neale Publishing Company

Hoyt, William Henry (1907). The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence: A Study of Evidence Showing that the Alleged Early Declaration of Independence by Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on May 20th, 1775, is Spurious. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

The Mecklenburg Declaration – The Celebrations

The Mecklenburg Declaration – The Controversy

Posted in American History, British history, British Navy, Declaration of Independence, Georgian England, history, political stance, research, war | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Duke Is Dead, Long Live the Duke . . . Now What?

I received another question, this time from a fellow writer: Generally, how long would it take for probate (courts) to settle a man’s estate and how long before the late peer’s son could be styled by his new title? Here’s my question: Does the new duke (he is of legal age, though not by much) come into his full inheritance immediately, or must he wait until his father’s will goes through probate or some such thing? (There are debts to be settled.)

Okay, let’s settle the easy part first. The peer’s eldest legitimate son is immediately considered the new peer. Most often, people would not call him by his new title until after his father’s funeral, but he would assume his father’s position as soon as the man’s death was pronounced. The new peer could deal with tenants and offer the will to be probated. It might be best if he did not use the supposed fortune associated with the peerage to build himself a model of Prince George’s Royal Pavilion, but for all intents and purposes, he is the new peer.

Now, comes the more complicated part: THE MONEY and THE DEBTS.

I think is obvious to say how a person with any property (real, personal, or both) during the Georgian era (and even today) should have a will. I recently purchased a new house (had it built), and I made certain it would not be tied up in probate court for years while my son paid taxes on an empty house if something should happen to me. Like today, the person creating the will had to be of “sound mind.”

During the Georgian era, a will could be declared void it the person was insane or drunk at the time of its creation or be voided if it was proven to have been written for a convicted felon, a prisoner, or an outlaw/thief. So it was also for those who committed suicide or had been excommunicated from the church or if the person was a slave. A married woman required the consent of her husband to have a will drawn up. Worst so, the husband had the right to withdraw his permission up until the will was probated. Because the legal age to marry during the time was 14 for boys and 12 for girls, such was the same ages for wills.

A testator oversaw the payment of debts (real or moral) and carried out any other duties prescribed in the will. Even so, will could be challenged. One of those thought to have been included in the will, but found himself omitted could contest the will on the grounds that the person for whom it had been created had been coerced by another, had been under undue influence by another or had been defrauded somehow. For those of us who are authors, we might have the testator sign the will while drunk or under some form of drugs. You get the picture, right?

Naturally, a will had to be witnessed properly. If we go back to the peer who died, if he did not update his will with the birth of each child, it could be considered invalid.

Whoever was listed as the executor of the will was charged with informing the new peer of any restrictions or special actions, as quickly as possible. The executor would oversee the care of the debts and paying out legacies, etc. Actually, the new peer/son could be the executor, for the executor was usually a family member or close friend. If the son proved to be the executor, it would prove beneficial to him to see all was done properly, more so than in haste. [Note: The Family History Guide has example of actual probate and court records.]

Probate of the peer’s will would likely take place in the church probate court in London. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC), which actually sat in London, was the senior church court, and dealt with the wills of relatively wealthy people living in the south of England and Wales, as well as with the estates of people who died at sea or abroad leaving personal property in England or Wales. (Even today, cases in the Property, Trusts and Probate List are managed by the Chancery Masters and heard by the Chancery Division judges.) This would be especially true if the man was a duke or an earl. This was customarily a matter of offering the will for review/probate and being granted the right to proceed with the will’s stipulations. [Note: There are online will indexes available at the National Archives.]

Notices were sent to the newspapers asking for any outstanding debts or bills. Inventory was usually taken and money located and accounted for.

Creditors were required to wait for the will to be probated and assets discovered before learning what would be granted them in payment. Just as a peer would pay his debt of honor (meaning gaming debts) before he would pay his tailor, so might be the disposition of funds. Based on the family’s fortune, not all debts were honored at probate.

The new peer would be assured he had the right to the cash on hand; yet, nothing was guaranteed. (Meaning no Royal Pavilion replica and perhaps not enough to pay the servants’ wages) The new peer’s father had the right to give away any cash on hand.

On top of all this, there fees associated with a title. 

I am adding an additional question at this point to answer both in the same post. So would each man as he receives his title – previous peer dying, of course – have to pay a new fee? Or is it just for new peerages?  I understand there was a go-fund-me type event for Wellington to pay the fees. Or am I wrong?

Yes there is a fee each noble paid on creation of a new title or succeeding to a title after the death of the previous peer.           

When the peer makes his first appearance at the House of Lords, he participates in an old age ceremony for which a fee also must be paid.

These fees were paid to the Receiver of Fees – who was a clerk in the House of Peers. In 1812. this was a Mr. Charles Sutherland.

Prince of Wales: upon creation – £703 6 8 – Upon his first introduction to the House he paid £30. (730 pounds, 6 shillings, and 8 pence)

A Duke paid £350 3 4 upon creation and £27 on first introduction

A Marquis paid £272 10 8, then £19 6 8 upon introduction.

An Earl paid £203 3 4 upon creation, and £14 on first introduction.

A Viscount paid £159 7 4 upon creation, then £12 upon introduction.

A baron paid £150 upon creation and £ 9 upon introduction.

If a peer advanced in title, (i.e., If a baron was made a viscount or an earl) he was required to pay the appropriate fee.

Every bishop was required to pay upon his first Consecration and upon future Promotion £14. The Archbishop paid £27 upon introduction.

This information is from the Royal Kalendar and annual Register for 1812. (provided by Nancy Mayer, Regency Researcher)

Also from Nancy, we learn, “Parliament voted to assist Wellington in paying his fees. He received about a 100000 each time he was elevated in the peerage. It is said it took all day for him to be invested in all the titles at once and pay all the fees. Nelson and Collingwood had friends pay their fees. Collingwood never even reached England to be formally invested in his title.”

All this being said, those fees did not need to be paid immediately after the previous peer died.

Each peer also was required to purchase parliamentary robes. Usually theirs were hand me downs from Papa or Uncle, but every so often, one needed to buy new ones before he sent in his petition for a writ of summons to parliament.

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