Jonathan Martin, Arsonist ~ Full of Fury and Fire

Many of my Regency stories is set in Yorkshire, one of my favorite places in the UK. Today, I bring you a tale that occurred on 1 February 1829, in the town of York and, specifically, involved the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter, now known as York Minster.

An artist’s impression of Martin in captivity ~

One Jonathan Martin was outraged with what “went on” in the Gothic cathedral. Martin had sent the church’s clergy several warning letters regarding their sins: “repent of bottles of wine, and roast beef and plum pudding.”

Martin was born at Highside House, near Hexham in Northumberland, one of 12 children. His brother John Martin was an English Romantic painter, engraver and illustrator. Another brother, William Martin, was an English eccentric and self-described philosopher. Jonathan was said to have been farmed out to his aunt, Ann Thompson, a staunch Protestant to spoke often of her visions of hell to the boy. Jonathan was “tongue tied” and spoke with an impediment.

Later, he stood witness to his sister’s murder by a neighbor and was sent to his uncle’s farm to recover from the shock. Eventually, Jonathan was apprenticed to a tanner but was caught in London and press ganged in 1804. He served for six years upon the HMS Hercule and even saw action at the Battle of Copenhagen.

Jonathan finally returned to England when the HMS Hercule was broken up in 1810. He settled to Durham, where he married and where his son Richard was born in 1814. Shortly, thereafter, he became a Wesleyan preacher and denounced the Church of England. He was well-known for disruptive Protestant church services, calling the members of the clergy of the Church of England as “vipers from hell.”

In 1817, he was arrested, tried, and sent to a private asylum in West Auckland for his threats to shoot Edward Legge, the Bishop of Oxford. Later, he was transferred to the public asylum in Gateshead, from which he escaped in June 1820, but was quickly recaptured.

In 1821, upon learning his wife had died, Martin escaped a second time from the asylum. He was not recaptured, and, so, he returned to work as a tanner and a preacher. Because he believed that all prayer should come from the heart, rather than be recited from formal liturgy, Martin thought it his mission to expose the “corrupt state” of the established church, and he acted according to those tenants for nearly a decade following his return to society. He published his autobiography in 1826, with additional editions in 1828, 1829, and 1830. This was his chief source of income.

In 1828, he remarried; this time to Maria Hudson. The couple moved to York, where he experienced another mental breakdown in 1829.

On Sunday, 1 February, Martin attended the evensong (the Anglican equivalent to Vespers in the Roman Catholic Church) at York Minster. During the service, he became distracted by what he termed to be a “buzzing sound” coming from the organ. Instead of returning home after the service, Martin hid in the building, finally making his way to the bell tower. Ironically, any who noted his light did not question its presence in the tower. Later that night, Martin set fire to the woodwork in the choir area, using hymn books, cushions, and curtain as the fuel, and then escaped by climbing down a bell rope from the tower.

Evensong rehearsal in the quire of York Minster, showing carved choir stalls.

Smoke was not noted until the early hours of 2 February. It was raging by 8 of the clock. It took until the afternoon of 3 February before the fire was under control. “A section of the roof of the central aisle approximately 131 foot (40 m) long was destroyed, stretching from the lantern tower towards the east window, together with much of the internal woodwork from the organ screen to the altar screen, including the organ, medieval choir stalls, the bishop’s throne, and the pulpit. The cause – arson – soon became apparent, and the culprit was identified from threatening placards Martin had left on the Minster railings in previous days, including his initials and address. (Jonathan Martin, arsonist)

Martin was captured near Hexham on 6 February. He neither denied his guilt nor resist arrest. He simply declared his actions as “God’s will.”

He was tried at York Castle in March 1829, before Baron Hullock and a jury. At his trial Martin said: “It vexed me to hear them singing their prayers and amens. I knew it did not come from the heart; it was deceiving the people.” Martin was defended by Henry Brougham, who had gained notoriety for defending Queen Caroline in 1821 and who became a liberal leader in the House of Lords, as well as Lord Chanceloor of Great Britain (24 November 1830 to 9 July 1834). Unfortunately, like the placards left at the scene, Martin had sent a series of letters to the clergy at the York cathedral. He had signed each with “JM” and include his address. One of them included the threat: “Your great Minsters and churches will come rattling down upon your guilty heads.”

At his trial Martin told the judge: ‘After I had written five letters to the clergy, the last of which I believe was a very severe one, I was very anxious to speak to them by word of mouth; but none of them would come near me. So I prayed to the Lord, and asked him what was to be done. And I dreamed that I saw a cloud come over the cathedral – and it tolled towards me at my lodgings; it awoke me out of my sleep, and I asked the Lord what it meant; and he told me it was to warn these clergymen of England, who were going to plays, and cards, and such like: and the Lord told me he had chosen me to warn them.’

“Feelings were running high against Martin, so much so that a detachment of soldiers remained in court during the trial because the judge feared that he might be lynched. He is said to have smiled a great deal during the hearing, fuelling howls of anger from the public gallery.” (The Fire and Fury of Jonathan Martin)

Despite the jury ruling that he was guilty on a capital charge, which should have resulted in a death sentence, the judge declared him not guilty on the grounds of insanity. He was detained in Bethlem Royal Hospital, where he remained until he died nine years later. During this period of detention, he made a number of drawings, including self-portraits and an apocalyptic picture of the destruction of London. His son, Richard, from his first marriage, was brought up by Jonathan’s brother John. Richard committed suicide in September 1838, three months after his father’s death.

Other Sources: 

Balston, T, The life of Jonathan Martin … with some account of William and Richard Martin (1945).

H. C. G. Matthew, ‘Martin, Jonathan (1782–1838)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn, October 2006.

“Jonathan Martin, A Madman Who Set Fire to York Minster.” The Newgate Calendar.

Rede, Leman Thomas. “Arson and Sacrifice: The Life and Trial of Jonathan Martin.” York Castle in the Nineteenth Century, Being an Account of All the Principal Offences Committed in Yorkshire, from The Year 1800 to the Present Period; with The Lives of Capital Offenders; Accompanied with Interesting Anecdotes, Etc.

Posted in British history, buildings and structures, Church of England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, real life tales, religion, research | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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 



Posted in British history, buildings and structures, contemporary, Living in the UK, research | Tagged , , , , , ,

The Brides, the Grooms, and the Weddings in Jane Austen Novels, a Guest Post from Eliza Shearer

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors Blog on April 30, 2019. 

The wedding season is well and truly upon us. I have three weddings this year, two of them in the next few weeks, which has got me thinking about how vow exchanging ceremonies feature in Jane Austen’s novels…

The Tradition

“It was a very proper wedding. The bride was elegantly dressed; the two bridesmaids were duly inferior; her father gave her away; her mother stood with salts in her hand, expecting to be agitated; her aunt tried to cry; and the service was impressively read by Dr. Grant.”

Mansfield Park, Chapter XXI

Weddings in Jane Austen’s time were not that different from the sort of celebrations we are used to today. Some of the elements and features that we immediately recognise (even expect) in a contemporary wedding were already present. The blushing bride, the emotional future mother-in-law and the bridesmaids and their unspoken duty not to upstage the bride have been around for over two-hundred years. Who knew?


The Wedding-Clothes

Of course, some details were slightly different. For example, the bride’s family was expected to provide “wedding-clothes” for their daughter, which comprised of her wedding dress, new gowns and the linen required to equip her new home. In Northanger Abbey, Mrs Allen says that Miss Drummond (later Mrs Tiney) was so wealthy that  “when she married, her father gave her (…) five hundred to buy wedding-clothes.” That is the same as the yearly income of Mrs Dashwood and her daughters in Sense and Sensibility, so it must have been quite the trousseau.

The quantity and quality of a bride’s wedding-clothes were a social marker, and hence Mrs Bennet’s obsession with the matter in Pride and Prejudice, in spite of the circumstances of Lydia and Wickham’s marriage. She instructs her brother to “tell Lydia she shall have as much money she chooses to buy them (wedding clothes)” and even “not to give any directions about her clothes till she has seen me, for she does not know which are the best warehouses.” Too bad that her husband isn’t having any of it.

The Wedding Ceremony

Maria Bertram and Mr Rushworth’s wedding in Mansfield Park is particularly lavish, as it marks the marriage of a Baronet’s daughter and a very wealthy man. Most of the ceremonies during the Regency were a more modest affair, even when those getting married had a generous income. Having said that, the trend for simplicity was not to everyone’s liking. Here’s the delightful passage at the end of Emma, from the point-of-view of self-important Mrs Elton. It describes Mr Knightley’s and Emma’s wedding, and the subtext tells us what Austen thought of extravagant ceremonies:

“The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own.-‘Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business!-Selina would stare when she heard of it’.”

Emma, Chapter 55

The Wedding Cake

Although weddings were not necessarily followed by a celebratory meal, the wedding cake was the centrepiece of any Regency wedding. The recipe made for a rich and dense confection, packed with dried fruit and a fair bit of alcohol, not unlike the Christmas pudding already popular at the time. The wedding cake was cut and distributed to friends, family and neighbours, and would keep for ages, if not consumed immediately after the ceremony.

In Emma, while at Mr and Mrs Weston’s wedding, Mr Woodhouse consults with Mr Perry about the digestibility of the wedding cake. “Mr Woodhouse’s delicate stomach could bear nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be different from himself”, so he is pleased when the apothecary admits that “wedding-cake might certainly disagree with many—perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately.” Mr Woodhouse tries to convince guests not to consume the sweet, but in spite of his best efforts, all the wedding cake is eaten up, and even the little Perrys are rumoured to have eaten some!

The New Carriage

Last but definitely not least, wealthy newlyweds would sometimes purchase a new carriage for the wedding, marking in yet another way their new status as a married couple. In Persuasion, upon marrying Captain Wentworth, Anne Elliot becomes “the mistress of a very pretty landaulette.” The lack of a brand new carriage is precisely the only faux pas in the Rushworths’ wedding. This is the sentence that follows the paragraph of Mansfield Park quoted above:

“Nothing could be objected to when it came under the discussion of the neighbourhood, except that the carriage which conveyed the bride and bridegroom and Julia from the church-door to Sotherton was the same chaise which Mr Rushworth had used for a twelvemonth before. In everything else, the etiquette of the day might stand the strictest investigation.”

Mansfield Park, chapter XXI

Given Jane Austen’s eye for detail, and the combined wealth of the bride and groom, this is no small detail. I see it as the author’s subtle way to convey that the Rushworths’ marriage was doomed from the start.


The Perfect Wedding Guest

If you have any weddings coming up this year, enjoy the celebrations, but remember what is expected of a good wedding guest. As Miss Woodhouse puts it when discussing the Westons’ nuptials in the opening chapter of Emma: “we all behaved charmingly. Every body was punctual, every body in their best looks; not a tear, and hardly a long face to be seen.” I intend to make Emma’s words my guide in the next few weeks. 


Which is your favourite Austen wedding and why?

Posted in Austen Authors, Church of England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, marriage, marriage customs, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Memorial Day – Thank a Veteran Today





Billy Ray Cyrus singing “Some Gave All” 

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Broken Engagements in the Regency Period

34113799-concept-of-a-lost-relationship-with-a-letter-a-red-rose-and-an-engagement-ring-left-on-a-table-Stock-Photo A popular plot in Regency era romances is the broken engagement, but what was the truth of the situation?

Unless he suddenly uncovered a flaw in the morals of he lady, once a man proposed to a woman, he was expected to go through with it. Sometimes engagements were called off when the fathers and/or guardians could not agree on the settlements with the gentleman. However, if a man jilted the one to whom he had proposed, it was thought that he found out something to speak to her low character, particularly that she had known another intimately.

The only means to save the female’s reputation was for the gentleman to marry another quickly, so quickly that the betrothed female sometimes did not even know she was jilted. The jilted person, if of age, had the right to sue for breach of promise. Because betrothals and engagements were no longer enforced by the church, they were considered to rest on a man’s honor. The man could more easily jilt a female than the girl could jilt him.

“Breach of promise of marriage suits originated in the ecclesiastical courts; the Hardwicke Marriage Act, however, invalidated betrothals and forced jilted lovers to use the common law courts for redress. Lower-middle and upper-working class couples had a definite set of courtship rituals, based on their desire for respectability and their simultaneous lack of economic security. Though most couples wanted to find the companionate ideal, they also needed to have good homemakers (for men) and solid providers (for women). They indulged in middle-class sentimentality in their letters and poetry, yet their courting was less formal and unsupervised. This mixture of needs was also reflected in their motives for separating, a combination of ideological, structural and personal difficulties. There was a sustained argument over breach of promise in the later Victorian period, which showed the tensions between individualism and companionate marriage in its culture. The legal community was divided over the desirability of the suit; most judges supported it and most lawyers did not. It also divided the populace, since the lower classes were favorable, but the upper classes abhorred it. Women, too, were unable to agree, breach of promise protected them, but it also placed them in a special category that was inherently unequal. Ironically, the plaintiffs, by appealing to the patriarchal courts, proved to be strong feminists, since they refused to be passive in the face of victimization. This showed great determination, since most of the commentators on the action were hostile; breach of promise cases in fiction, in fact, were overwhelmingly negative, legitimizing the upper-class disdain for the suit and ignoring its usefulness for poorer women.” [Rice University Digital Scholarship Archives; Promises broken: Breach of promise of marriage in England and Wales, 1753-1970, Ginger Suzanne Frost, 1991]

The couple would often try to come up with some excuse that showed that the woman simply changed her mind, and she and the man agreed to part amicably. However, the “tale” told was often overlooked for the rumors and gossip were much more tantalizing to repeat. More gossip and scandal stuck to female’s name; there was less blame attributed to the man unless the girl’s family entered into a counter attack to shift the blame to him or to make it appear she broke the engagement. The appeal to honor was very strong. Both the Duke of Wellington and Lord Byron married women they didn’t want because they had once made the mistake of showing interest or of discussing marriage with the women.

That is the bare bones of it: the woman generally paid the price unless they could successfully claim she felt they wouldn’t suit; however, how society reacted depended on the woman’s dowry, her family position. [This held true for the gentleman, as well.] If a great heiress was jilted people would be careful not to blame her too much because they would want a chance for a son or nephew to marry her. A rich peer or a rich young man was always a good catch, and a father or guardian of the next young lady to catch his eye would make certain he made it to the altar.

A woman could cry off, but she had to be wary of being labeled a “jilt.”  (1670s, “loose, unchaste woman; harlot;” also “woman who gives hope then dashes it;” probably a contraction of jillet, gillet, from Middle English gille “lass, wench,”)

cover.indd A man who promised marriage and cried off could be sued for breach of promise, particularly if the promise was in writing. To win such a suit, one had to prove the promise and damages. Or he might just be labeled as bad ton. There were a few cases of men winning breach of promise suits. A good reference for those cases is Broken Engagements: The Action for Breach of Promise of Marriage and the Feminine Ideal, 1800–1940, by Saskia Lettmaier; Ginger Frost; Victorian Studies, Vol. 54, No. 1 (Autumn 2011), pp. 151-153, Indiana University Press. Not everyone would sue for breach of promise for it involved there being damages (to the daughter, leaving her unable to marry), so upper class might be inclined to sweep the whole thing aside as soon as possible so the social stain might be forgotten. Either way, it was poor form. A gentleman was not to propose unless he to go through with it; likewise a woman should not accept unless she was certain. 

This is an excerpt from Elizabeth Bennet’s Excellent Adventure in which Mr. Darcy has been detained by footpads in London and does not make it to Hertfordshire to marry Elizabeth. See how the scenario of a broken engagement plays out in the story: 

“Where is the dastard?” Elizabeth heard her father demand of Colonel Fitzwilliam.

The colonel and Miss Darcy had arrived at the church without the groom the entire neighborhood expected. Ironically, but Elizabeth knew Mr. Darcy had not returned to Hertfordshire. Even without being told, her heart said she would know disappointment. Nevertheless, Elizabeth had permitted her mother and the others to offer a hundred reasons for Mr. Darcy’s absence. How could she tell them she had destroyed her happiness with a quarrelsome tongue?

“Perhaps Mr. Darcy took ill.”

“Mayhap there was a carriage accident.”

“More likely, the gentleman changed his mind, just as I predicted,” Mrs. Connor declared in triumph.

Miss Darcy caught Elizabeth’s hand, offering the girl’s support. “You must know how dearly William cares for you,” the girl pleaded.

Elizabeth did not wish to be cruel to Mr. Darcy’s sister, but her pride smacked of the betrayal. “Mr. Darcy cared more for his railroad than his intended,” she snapped.

Fighting back tears, Elizabeth spoke privately to her father. “Please, sir, may we not return to Longbourn? I believe two hours is long enough to wait for Mr. Darcy.”

Thankfully, her father recognized Elizabeth’s fragile composure. As they made their exit to his waiting coach, Mr. Bennet discreetly requested that Mr. Bingley see the remainder of the Bennet family home. Inside the carriage, her father gathered Elizabeth in his arms to rock her to and fro.

“My dearest girl,” Mr. Bennet whispered as Elizabeth permitted her tears free rein. “I will not tolerate this insult, not to my darling Lizzy.”

“No!” Elizabeth sobbed. “Mr. Darcy is not worth our notice. Please say you will do nothing foolish. I could not bear it.”

“I am but a country squire,” her father declared, “but I am not without connections.”

“Please, Papa. I simply wish to forget this slight. Do not exacerbate it.” Elizabeth buried her face in her father’s cravat. “It was my fault for aspiring to a match above my sphere. Lady Catherine said as much. Mr. Darcy likely realized the censure he would claim with our joining.”

Mr. Bennet took umbrage with Elizabeth’s remarks. “I will not have you speak so, Lizzy. Any man would earn a brilliant match by claiming you.”

Elizabeth attempted to control her tears. She swiped hard at her cheeks. “Permit me my misery this day,” she said through a choking sob. “I promise to know a wiser choice on the morrow.”

“As you wish, Lizzy.” Her father gathered her closer to caress Elizabeth’s back. It was comforting to know his love. “I will forbid all from entering your room until you are prepared to face them. Take as long as you like. One day or a whole month of days. When you decide how you wish to proceed, send for me, and we will deal with this together. Even if you do not wish to force the marriage, I believe Mr. Darcy’s name will know the shame of a breech of promise action.”

Elizabeth did not argue with her father regarding the futility of such legal actions against a man of Mr. Darcy’s stature. Instead, when they reached Longbourn, she hurried to her room to bury her tears in her bed pillow. She noted the worried look from Mr. and Mrs. Hill as she scurried past them. The servants and all her neighbors would know Mr. Darcy had abandoned her at the altar.

Inside the room, Elizabeth kicked off her slippers, sending them flying brought her a momentary surcease. She wished there was something else she could throw, or better yet, punch in a most unladylike manner. The thought of slapping Mr. Darcy’s too masculine cheek would be quite satisfying.

In frustration, Elizabeth ripped at the lace of her ivory wedding dress. She should summon a maid to assist her, but it did her well to hear seams rip and to have lace sleeves come loose in her hands.

With more anger than she knew possible, Elizabeth tore the gown from her body, strip by silken strip. She would never wear the dratted dress again, and seeing it turned to rags brought her the only delight this day could hold for her. Standing at last in nothing more than her shift, Elizabeth gathered the ribbon and pieces of cloth in an untidy heap and unceremoniously dumped them out the window. The realization brought another round of tears to her eyes, injustice rushing to her lips. It was bad enough to know Mr. Darcy only agreed to their marriage to save her from the damage of Maria Lucas’s gossip, but to be so publicly shamed was beyond Elizabeth’s comprehension.


“Maria’s tale would be preferable to what occurred today,” she sobbed aloud. “I might have convinced the girl to ignore the obvious, but now everyone knows the man’s disdain for the Bennets.”


A soft knock at the door caught Elizabeth’s attention: It was Jane.

“Are you…? Is there anything…?”

“No, Jane,” Elizabeth called before biting down hard on her lip to keep from lashing out at her sister.

Jane would soon know the happiness of joining with Mr. Bingley. How often had they hid in the copse to speak of the men they would love?

“I am well,” Elizabeth managed.

“Are you certain?” came her sister’s voice of concern.

Anger returned. “Why should I not be well?” she said with ill temper. “It was the pinnacle of my day to stand before friends and foes and permit them to witness my public humiliation.” She paused, seeking control. “Just leave me be, Jane. I know you mean well, but…”

“As you wish,” Jane said in what sounded of tears.

Silence followed her sister’s departure. Elizabeth could hear the buzz of voices below. She hoped her father could keep everyone away. She imagined the chaos as Mrs. Bennet hustled servants to remove the wedding breakfast.

“The breakfast,” she murmured through a new round of tears. Curling in a ball upon the bed, Elizabeth covered her face. “The breakfast where Mr. Darcy and I were to accept the

congratulations of all our dear family and friends.”


EBEZ copy 2Elizabeth Bennet’s Excellent Adventure: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary 

The Last Man in the World She Wishes to Marry is the One Man Who Owns Her Heart!

ELIZABETH BENNET adamantly refused Fitzwilliam Darcy’s proposal, but when Maria Lucas discovers the letter Darcy offers Elizabeth in explanation of his actions, Elizabeth must swallow her objections in order to save her reputation. She follows Darcy to London and pleads for the gentleman to renew his proposal. Yet, even as she does so, Elizabeth knows not what she fears most: being Mr. Darcy’s wife or the revenge he might consider for her earlier rebuke.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY would prefer that Elizabeth Bennet held him in affection, but he reasons that even if she does not, having Elizabeth at his side is far better than claiming another to wife. However, when a case of mistaken identity causes Darcy not to show at his wedding ceremony, he finds himself in a desperate search for his wayward bride-to-be.

Elizabeth, realizing Society will label her as “undesirable” after being abandoned at the altar, sets out on an adventure to mark her future days as the spinster aunt to her sisters’ children. However, Darcy means to locate her and to convince Elizabeth that his affections are true, and a second chance will prove him the “song that sets her heart strumming.”

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Posted in British history, Church of England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, marriage, marriage customs, romance | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Sailing the Seas on a Family Ship, a Guest Post from Collins Hemingway

This post originally appeared on Austen Authors in February 2019. Enjoy.

Last week, we saw how Jane Austen’s family used connections to help promote the careers of her two sailor brothers, Frank and Charles. When we left them, the Napoleonic wars were ending, causing a glut of naval officers. The Austen brothers’ lack of connections—their few sponsors had fallen out of favor—stymied both brothers’ advancement.

Both stayed in service, however, for they really had no other way to make a living. Frank remained in service and received promotions and awards, but had no sea command for twenty-nine years. Only after attrition thinned the senior ranks, when he was seventy-one, did he get another ship. In 1844, he became commander in chief of the North American and West Indies Station. Eventually, his longevity made him Admiral of the Fleet.

Charles (above, as senior officer, by headline) had spent most of the war on the North American Station, alternating between Bermuda and Nova Scotia. He took a number of prizes, though none was substantial. After an assignment on a guardship at the mouth of the Thames, he returned to sea in the Mediterranean. There, however, he lost his ship, the Phoenix, when a local pilot drove it upon the rocks near Smyrna, Turkey. Though he was cleared of wrongdoing, the loss could not have come at a worse time. With the war ending, and a surplus of captains, who was going to give a command to someone whose ship had sunk?

For nine years, Charles had a land position overseeing coast guard operations. Then one day, he saw the Aurora preparing to sail, but the captain’s flag was at half-mast. According to Brian Southam, Charles took a small boat over to the ship to confirm the captain’s death, presented his credentials to the Admiralty, and inquired about the opening. Asked when he could sail, he said: “tomorrow!” In fact, he sailed four days later. (Clive Caplan, another naval expert, discounts Southam’s story, claiming it was “bogus.”)

From 1826 until his death in 1852, Charles was again at sea; his only extended time on land was when he was invalided for a year after falling from a mast. He led the fleet capturing Rangoon and died of cholera in Burma at the age of 73.

Giving preferment to a family member created what was known as a “family ship.” Having lacked the family or wealth to advance their own careers, Frank and Charles did not hesitate to use nepotism to help their own relatives when they were finally in a position to do so.

On Frank’s flagship Vindictive in North America in 1845, his officers included George, his third son, as chaplain; and Herbert, his fourth son, as flag lieutenant. Frank sought to have his namesake oldest son named flag captain, but the Admiralty vetoed the idea. When Frank promoted Herbert to be commander of the Vesuvius, he named Charles’ namesake son to replace Herbert as flag lieutenant. Frank also had on board his daughters Cass and Frances. Cass apparently was not well-liked; crew members christened her “Miss Vindictive.”

Brother Charles also packed his family ship when he took command of East India and China in 1847. His son Charles was an officer, and his nephew, Frank, was his flag captain (this appointment passed Admiralty scrutiny). He had three great-nephews aboard, one via Frank and two from the family of the wife of his brother Edward. Another of his officers was Tom Fowle. This was the nephew of the Tom Fowle who had been the fiancé of sister Cassandra and who had died at sea years before. The younger Tom had previously served under both Austen brothers.

Charles’ first wife, Fanny, had sailed with him before she died young as a consequence of childbirth. Later, he married Fanny’s sister Harriet, who after Fanny’s death had cared for his children when he was away. On this trip, he took Harriet and his daughters Cassy, Harriet, and Fanny. Like Charles’ two wives, as well as Persuasion’s Mrs. Croft (and possibly Anne Elliot after marriage), daughter Fanny was onboard as a navy wife—she had married her cousin Frank.

By sheer tenacity, Austen’s sailor brothers rose to the highest ranks of their profession. Beyond post-captain, promotion was based on seniority, and the Austen boys outlived—and eventually out-sailed—their better-connected competitors. They brought along for the ride as many of their family as they could.

41LI51lIsGL._UX250_ 51meMRgav7L._SX260_.jpgThe Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, which traces love from a charming courtship through the richness and complexity of marriage and concludes with a test of the heroine’s courage and moral convictions, is now complete and available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books.

The Trilogy is also available as a Kindle “boxed set.” 

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, British Navy, family, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Napoleonic Wars, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Changing One’s Name During the Regency

I wish I could recall where I encountered this information, but I cannot. Therefore, I must apologize up front if someone shared it with me, and I am not giving them credit or whether I read it in a Facebook post. 

41Mu6hBzOXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg The question was whether a person could legally change his/her name during the Regency Period [and I would assume during the Georgian Period, as a whole]. A book was suggested: An Index to Changes of Names: Under Authority of Act of Parliament or Royal Licence and Including Irregular Changes from I George III to 64 Victoria. 1760-1901. [ William Phillimore Watts Phillimore and Edward Alexander Fry, Forgotten Books, 17 October 2017] It is one of those books that is reproduced from the original artifact, meaning it is in the public domain.

Here is the book blurb for the book from Amazon: The sources from which this index has been compiled are several. Primarily it is based on the Changes of Name by Royal licence. For this purpose the volumes of the London Gazette, and also the Dublin Gazette from 1760 to 1901 were examined, but it must be remembered that not all Royal licences are advertised in the Gazettes, though the vast majority are so advertised for obvious reasons of convenience, and often also in the Times and other newspapers. Registration at Heralds’ College only, is a sufficient compliance with the Royal licence granted. 

Contrary to popular belief, it has always been possible to change your name without having to register the change with any official body. It is still perfectly legal for anyone over the age of 16 to start using a new name at any time, as long as they are not doing so for a fraudulent or illegal reason.

According to The National Archives: “The Index to Changes of Name for UK and Ireland 1760-1901 by WP Phillimore and Edward Alex Fry is made up of information from the following sources:

  • Private Acts of Parliament
  • Royal Licences published in the London and Dublin Gazettes
  • notices of changes of name published in The Times after 1861 with a few notices from other newspapers
  • registers of the Lord Lyon [King of Arms] where Scottish changes of name were commonly recorded
  • records in the office of the Ulster King at Arms
  • some private information

It does not include

  • changes by Royal licence not advertised in the London Gazette
  • changes by deed poll that were enrolled but not advertised in The Times

First, let us address those “Under Authority of Parliament” and those under “Royal Licence.” What did that mean? Staying with The National Archives, we learn: “

Royal licences to a change of name were common in the 18th and 19th centuries, but in later years would be issued where:

  • an inheritance depended on someone taking the deceased’s name
  • marriage settlement required a husband to adopt his wife’s name
  • a change of name also required a change to a coat of arms

Information relating to Royal licences can be found in:

  • The National Archives
  • The London Gazette
  • The Royal College of Arms

“The National Archives holds a small number of warrants for Royal licences to changes of name in the following series of records (please note they are not searchable online):

  • SP 44 for the period up to 1782
  • HO 38 from 1782 to February 1868
  • HO 142 from February 1868 onwards

“There is also some correspondence describing individual examples of changes of name in:

  • HO 45 for the period 1841-1871
  • HO 144 for the period 1868-1959

“The London Gazette can be searched by name on The Gazette website for any references to changes of name.

“Some changes of name were made by a private Act of Parliament – usually for the same reasons as those made by Royal licence (see above). This was fairly common in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but since 1907 has only been used once.

“Acts of Parliament are published in printed volumes arranged by year. The National Archives library has a set as do some other libraries. It may be helpful to:

“For more information on where to see copies of private Acts click on the link and scroll to point 6. The Parliamentary Archives also has records relating to change of name by Act of Parliament. See their website for details of how to visit.”

 Wikipedia’s article on Name Change tells us: “From the mediaeval age to the 19th century, the era of family dynasties, name changes were frequently demanded of heirs in the last wills and testaments, legacies and bequests, of members of the gentry and nobility who were the last males of their bloodline. Such persons frequently selected a younger nephew or cousin as the heir to their estates on condition that he should adopt the surname and armorials of the legator in lieu of his patronymic. Thus the ancient family otherwise destined to extinction would appear to continue as a great dynasty in the making. Such changes were also more rarely demanded by marriage settlements, for example where the father of a sole daughter and heiress demanded that as a condition of his daughter’s dowry her husband should adopt his father-in-law’s surname and arms. Thus the progeny of the marriage would continue the otherwise extinct family’s name. Such name changes were generally only demanded of younger sons, where an elder brother was available to inherit the paternal estates under primogeniture and carry on the name and arms abandoned by the younger brother. Such name changes were effected by obtaining a private Act of Parliament or by obtaining a Royal Licence. A less radical procedure adopted from the 18th century onwards was for the legator or settlor to demand only that the legatee or beneficiary should adopt his surname in addition to his patronymic, not in place of it, which gave rise to the ‘double-barrelled,’ even the ‘triple-barrelled name, frequently parodied in literature as epitomising the wealthy ‘squirearchy’ with an embarrassment of inherited estates.

Well known examples are:

  • Russell to Gorges (14th century). Ralph IV Gorges, 2nd Baron Gorges, died without issue in 1331. In an effort to preserve his family name and arms he made one of his younger nephews his heir, on condition that he should adopt the name and arms of Gorges. This nephew was William Russell, the second son of his second sister Eleanor de Gorges who had married Sir Theobald Russell (d.1341) of Kingston Russell, Dorset. The event is referred to in one of the earliest heraldic law cases brought concerning English armory, Warbelton v. Gorges in 1347. 
  • Smithson to Percy (18th century). Sir Hugh Smithson, 4th Baronet (1715-1786) (c.1714-`786) in 1740 married Lady Elizabeth Seymour, daughter and sole heiress of Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset, and granddaughter of Lady Elizabeth Percy (d.1722), daughter and sole heiress of Josceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland (1644-1670). In 1740, by a private Act of Parliament, Smithson changed his surname to Percy and inherited the title Earl of Northumberland and was later created Duke of Northumberland.  

edwardknight-234x300.jpgFor those of you who relate everything I write to Austen, I offer Edward Knight. Edward Austen was the only Austen brother not to have a profession. Early in the 1780’s he was adopted by Mr. Austen’s Patron, the rich but childless Thomas and Catherine Knight. Instead of going off to University, He was sent on the “grand tour” of continental Europe in 1786-1788, and eventually inherited their estate of Godmersham, Kent, and took the last name of “Knight”. 

James_Edward_Austen-Leigh.jpg austen-leigh-james_edward-memoir-B20137-53.jpgA Memoir of Jane Austen, published in 1869, is the earliest full-length biography of Jane Austen, and the only one written by someone she knew. Its author, James Edward Austen-Leigh (1798-1894), was her nephew, the son of her eldest brother James and his second wife Mary Lloyd. The “Leigh” faction of Jane Austen’s family comes from her mother’s side, Cassandra, youngest daughter of the Rev. Thomas Leigh, of the family of Leighs of Warwickshire, who, having been a fellow of All Souls, held the College living of Harpsden, near Henley-upon-Thames. Mr. Thomas Leigh was a younger brother of Dr. Theophilus Leigh, a personage well known at Oxford in his day, and his day was not a short one, for he lived to be ninety, and held the Mastership of Balliol College for above half a century. 

Changing one’s name was generally as easy as simply telling people to “call me Jones instead of Smith” sort of thing. The name couldn’t be blasphemous or profane , nor could one change one’s name to that of princess or prince. [Do you remember on the episode of “Friends,” after Phoebe marries Mike, she decides to change her name. At the department, she learns that she can change it to anything she likes. Her new name becomes Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock. Mike is not too happy about this, and decides to retaliate to this by changing his name to Crap Bag. Finally Phoebe becomes aware of the mistake she made and decides to rectify it, changing her name to Phoebe Buffay-Hannigan.]

However, when a legacy/inheritance was involved, a more formal means was practiced, for a person’s name was considered part of his identity and was not to be changed in a casual manner. It was given and recorded at the sacrament of Baptism/Christening, and it was confirmed at Confirmation. A change in a baptismal name could result in a marriage being invalidated. That being said, the bishop sometimes changed names at Confirmation if he found them displeasing. One could not change his/her name in order to commit fraud or to cheat one’s creditors or to commit bigamy.

Nancy Mayer at Regency Researcher provides a variety of actual name changes during the Regency and earlier Victorian years. “The prime reason people changed their names was to receive a legacy. That sort of name change cost £50. Though people often substituted one surname for another one, they quite as frequently just added a name to the surname they already had. Earl of Jersey added ‘Child’ to the family surname in compliance with the will of Robert Child who was grandfather of Lady Jersey. Even Byron added Noel to his surname. He and Lord Holland incorrectly added names to their titles as well, probably in an excess of caution as to fulfilling the terms of some will. Fanny Burney wrote a novel based on a legacy to a girl of a tidy fortune when she married if her husband would change his name to that of the benefactor. The man who said he loved her refused to change his name so left her prey to all sorts of problems.

“Most people were willing to change or add a surname  if the change came with money.In Jane Austen’s family there are the Austen Knights and Austen Leighs. Byron added Noel to Byron and Jersey added Child to Villiers. Some families had four surnames. Some families did change surname to appear more aristocratic or sophisticated. A Davy Jones , tired of jokes about his lover or  the ocean, changed his name to David St.Paul. One man– a Thomas J Jones had his son’s name changed from Vere Jones to Vere Jones Vere. Deadman changed to Dedman. The name given a child at baptism wasn’t supposed to be changed except that the Bishop could do so at confirmation if he felt the name was inappropriate. Some thought that a person could only marry by a baptismal or legally changed name. The courts  treated each case separately.”

As noted above, there was a fee for a name change that could, literally, run into the hundreds of pounds. If one changed the name for one’s own pleasure one paid £10. If a will or other document required it, the price went up to £50. Then there was the cost of the advertisements and recording the change in the College of Arms.

The Regency Researcher also explains: “One obtained a royal license to change one’s name by making a application through the Herald’s office. It had to be drawn up with care so as to achieve the exact name requested.
The Royal license is given under the Sign Manual and privy Seal and is countersigned by the Secretary of State for the Home department. The cost was 10£ when changed for one’s own reason’s but the stamp tax paid for a change according to a will was , as I mentioned, 50£. Those fees were the stamp duty. Other fees were charged. 
£ 34 to have the name recorded  by the College of heralds. 
£ 10 to the Exchequer 
£ 2 2s to advertise the name change in the Gazette 
66£ additional if a coat of arms is issued at the time.”

A deed poll is a legal contract involving only one party. Changes of name by deed poll were (and are) made before a solicitor who issues the document to the person changing his name. The solicitor may keep a copy on file, but it is unlikely to be a certified copy, and the file is unlikely to be kept for more than five years. The person changing his name can ask his solicitor to ‘enrol’ the deed poll, for safekeeping, in the Enrolment Books of the Supreme Court of Judicature (formerly the Close Rolls of Chancery). However, this is not free, and most people decide against it, making it more difficult to trace a name for genealogy purposes. 

Research by any of the heralds was an extra charge  as was research into antecedents for coats of  arms. So, a person needing to change a name to receive a legacy had to pay around £100 if he already had a coat of arms.


Jane Austen 

The National Archives

Regency Researcher




Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, customs and tradiitons, family, Georgian England, history, Inheritance, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, peerage, real life tales, Regency era, research, titles of aristocracy, tradtions | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments