Thursday, December 27, 2012

Anthony Bingham Mildmay

Now if only Anthony, Lord Mildmay of Flete could have met his distant kinsman Frederick, St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke, what a conversation they would have enjoyed.

Anthony Bingham Mildmay, Lord Mildmay of Flete

They could have discussed the pedigree of Frederick's horses, all seventy of them, while admiring the portraits of Hollyhock, Lustre, Turf and Gimcrack painted by George Stubbs. On a tour of the stables at Lydiard they could have discussed the finer points of racing on the flat as opposed to steeplechasing, a sport growing in popularity during the 18th century.

Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke

The Rt Hon Anthony Bingham Mildmay, 2nd Lord Mildmay of Flete, was born on April 14, 1909, the only son of Francis Bingham Mildmay and his wife Alice Grenfell.  Educated at Eton and then Trinity College, Cambridge, Anthony was an amateur jockey, a gentleman rider, just like Frederick.

He was descended from the Farley Chamberlayne branch of the St John family.  His great grandfather was Humphrey St John Mildmay, the son of Henry St John who married wealthy heiress Jane Mildmay and took her surname as part of the marriage contract.  Their daughter Maria married Henry St John, 4th Viscount Bolingbroke, Frederick's grandson.

Frederick's portrait of Gimcrack painted by George Stubbs

With more than 100 winners to his credit, it was always Mildmay's ambition to land the Grand National at Aintree and in 1936 it looked as if he might succeed until the reins broke and his horse, Davy Jones, ran off the course.

During the Second World War Mildmay's career was put on hold while he served with the Welsh Guards. Back in the saddle once again, Mildmay took a serious fall during a race at Folkestone in 1947.  An injury to his neck left him with disabling attacks of cramp, which were to ultimately prove fatal.

Then in 1948 he came within a whisker of winning of the National on his horse Cromwell, but the injury sustained the previous year saw him come in third - with a dislocated spine!

Lord Mildmay on Cromwell

On May 13, 1950 The Times sadly reported that the well known steeplechase rider, Lord Mildmay, "was reported missing yesterday after his usual early morning bathe at the mouth of the River Yealm at Newton Ferrers, Devon."  His clothes and a bucket of fresh water were found on Mothecombe beach close to his Devonshire home.  The search party of estate workers were joined by police, coastguards and a naval craft from Plymouth until the search was eventually called off when darkness fell. It was believed that an attack of cramp had caused the 41 year old Lord Mildmay to drown.

The young Anthony Bingham Mildmay pictured with his parents and sister Helen - painted by Sir Alfred J. Munnings  

Following his death The Times published this tribute from an unnamed friend.

Generosity, courage, sportsmanship, and personal charm were his to an exceptional degree.  There was something more - a complete lack of any form of self conceit, coupled with a superb sense of humour and the most perfect natural manners.  These last were not reserved for special occasions, for whether he was in the company of the highest in the land or the youngest stable boy in the yard he was exactly the same - natural, courteous, and unselfish.  By his valour and integrity on the racecourse he became the hero of many. He will remain an example to us all of what the word 'gentleman' should really mean.

More than 60 years after his death, Lord Mildmay can be seen in action on the British Pathe website.  Riding the favourite Castledermot, Mildmay romps home to an impressive win at the Cheltenham Wills Hunt Chase in 1949.

The Mildmay Course at Aintree was opened in 1953 and named in his honour.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Inside Claridges

You may wonder what a five star Mayfair hotel, popular with Posh and Becks, has got to do with Lydiard House on the outskirts of Swindon.

Claridges is built on the site of 45 - 57 Brook Street - seven properties constructed between 1723 and 1725.  One of the early tenants at number 51 was Sir Gustavus Hume of Castle Hume in County Fermanagh.  The next was John and Anne St John who moved in soon after their marriage in 1729.  For the next ten years the couple divided their time between Brook Street, the manor house at Battersea and building work at Lydiard House.

In 1812 Lord William Beauclerk bought the lease of number 51 and applied to Lord Grosvenor for permission to use the property as a hotel.  Although the request was initially turned down on the grounds that there were already too many hotels in Brook Street, Beauclerk pressed his case.  He stated that he intended to incorporate an existing hotel at number 43 thereby ensuring that the number of hotels on Brook Street would not be increased, and that 51 was already in use as 'a Private and distinct Lodging House.'

During the ensuing objections Beauclerk's tenant, a Mr Mivart, pleaded that the apartments were always held by the month or similar periods of time, and not let by the night to casual comers and that 'there is neither Coffee Room, Club Room, nor any sort of accommodation for Business of a Public Description.' In later decades the hotel had a reputation for supplying discreet accommodation for royalty, quite apt as Lord William Beauclerk descended from Charles Beauclerk, an illegitimate son of  Charles II and Nell Gwyn.

Mivart won his case and soon set the standard for the next 185 years.  In 1827 he numbered distinguished statesman and writer Baron Alexander von Humboldt from Hanover and the Count and Countess Woronzow from St Petersberg among his residents.  By 1838 had acquired the leases on 51-57 Brook Street and 48 Davies Street, a large corner house with stabling.

Within ten years of vacating the property John and Anne's former home at number 51 had undergone considerable internal alterations whilst retaining its old brick facade.

The present hotel takes its name from William Claridge who took over the enterprise following Mivart's retirement in 1853.  Number 49 - 53 received a mini makeover following the grant of a new 30 year lease on John's old home.

In 1881, with William Claridge in failing health, the hotel became a limited company and by the end of the decade there were plans for a comprehensive rebuilding project.  John and Anne's old home was demolished along with it neighbours in November 1894 and shortly before Christmas that year Countess de Grey laid the foundation stone for the new hotel.  Today the site of John and Anne's former home is roughly in the middle of Claridges front door.

In 2012 the BBC spent a year behind the scenes at Claridges where staff make extraordinary efforts to ensure the comfort of their wealthy guests.  The last episode screened this week covered the excitement of the summer Olympics and the arrival of the exclusive Noma restaurant. Celebrated Nordic chef Rene Redzepi opened a pop up restaurant in the ballroom with a menu reading more like a bushtucker trial from I'm a Celebrity ... but the diners seemed to like it.


Staff at Claridges Hotel

John, 2nd Viscount St John

Anne Furnese

The remodelled 18th century Lydiard House.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Snowy scenes at Lydiard Park

Some snowy scenes at Lydiard Park taken earlier this year.


The Ice House

The Ha-Ha

St Mary's Church

Ghostly footprints from the church to the house

Monday, December 10, 2012

Who lived in a house like this?

By the mid 19th century the Palladian mansion house at Lydiard Tregoze was a little the worse for wear. Generations of St John's had chosen to spend their declining fortunes on racehorses, fine porcelain and grand tours rather than a bit of DIY and the ancestral home was beginning to show its age.

Radical politician William Cobbett rode through the parish in September 1826 and later wrote:

'Here is a good old mansion-house and large walled-in garden and a park, belonging, they told me, to Lord Bolingbroke.  I went quite down to the house, close to which stands the large and fine church.  It appears to have been a noble place; the land is some of the finest in the whole country; the trees show that the land is excellent; but, all, except the church, is in a state of irrepair and apparent neglect, if not abandonment.

William had pretty much hit the nail on the head.

The house had served as a holiday home for the family for close on 150 years. Despite a major make over in the mid 18th century subsequent St John's had elected to live in London close to where the action was, popping back to Wiltshire for a spot of shooting and partying.  By the 1830s Henry, 4th Viscount Bolingbroke, was renting out the house and parkland.  His wife, Maria, Lady Bolingbroke was in Aberystwyth at the time of her death in 1836 and Henry was in Scotland at the time of his in 1851.

So, who was living in a house like this?

Not any old family, but one that had extended links to the St John's.  At the time of the 1841 census Thomas Orby Hunter was the tenant at Lydiard House with his daughter and son-in-law Charles and Charlotte Orby Wombwell and their baby daughter.

On June 6, 1841 the servants quarters was pretty much full with sixteen members of staff living in on census night and a further three recorded in the stables.  Most gave their birthplace as out of the parish, so presumably Thomas brought his own staff with him.

Ten years later and Charles Orby Wombwell had taken over the tenancy.  He had cut down on the indoor servants but there were still an impressive eleven in residence on census night, including a governess, butler, housekeeper, cook, kitchen maid, two housemaids, a nursemaid, a footman and a groom. This time there were more local folk on the pay roll - Elizabeth Hiscocks, the daughter of Lydiard gamekeeper Robert Hiscocks, Ann Dobson from Lydiard Tregoze, Richard Weeks from neighbouring Lydiard Millicent and Jesse Turner who would later become butler to Lord Bolingbroke.

So what is the connection with the Wombwell and the St John families?

Charles Orby Wombwell  was the son of Sir George Wombwell and his second wife Eliza Little.  He and his elder half brother George both married daughters of Thomas Orby Hunter.  As we have seen Charles married Charlotte, his brother married Georgiana.

Sir George and Georgiana's son George married Julia Sarah Alice Child Villiers - are you keeping up - now Julia was the daughter of George Augustus Frederick Child Villiers 6th Earl of Jersey and his wife Julia Peel.  The young Mrs Wombwell could trace her ancestry back eight generations to Sir Edward Villiers and his wife Barbara St John who grew up at Lydiard House, one of the six daughters on the magnificent St John polyptych in St Mary's Church.

My work here is done!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wick Farm mystery solved

Regular readers will know of my continuing interest in Wick Farm, once owned by the St John family and situated close to the Hay Lane entrance to Lydiard Park.  The Clark family who lived there for more than fifty years have proved an interesting bunch and the Victorian mystery of 1880-1 has occupied many hours of research.

Jonas Clark senior arrived at the farm in the 1830s with his common law wife Alice and their growing family. Unable to wed due to the presence of a former wife, Jonas and Alice lived together for more than thirty five years. Their second son, also named Jonas, took over the tenancy of the farm following his father's death in 1862.

Like his father, Jonas junior ended up with an unwanted and inconvenient wife.  His marriage to Elizabeth Bathe Humphries, more than ten years his senior, had not been a success and by the late 1870s they had separated.

The 1881 census recorded Jonas junior living at Wick Farm with his cousin Kate and their three children.  Further research revealed the absence of a father's name on the children's birth certificates.

This arrangement might appear unusual for our perceived ideas of Victorian social etiquette, but actually it wasn't that outrageous.  With divorce unavailable to the average couple, cohabitation was usually the only option when a marriage broke down and a new relationship was forged.  Jonas senior had done the same thing, marrying Alice Pinnell after the death of his first wife.

The only problem with this 1881 arrangement was that I had already found the death of Jonas Clark junior, which took place at Wick Farm the previous year - or had it?  This week writer and local historian Mark Child, author of Swindon Old Town Through Time eventually got to the bottom of the mystery.

Kate Trinity Clark, the daughter of Benjamin Clark, was born in Hullavington in 1830 and was indeed the cousin of Jonas Clark junior. Her father's elder brother was also called Jonas, a popular family name. Born in 1823 and 1826 respectively there was only a few years difference in the age of Uncle Jonas and Jonas junior, which lies at the heart of the confusion and a brilliant piece of detective work by Mark.

Kate and Jonas junior's relationship began in the late 1870s with Kate's uncle Jonas and his son William joining the family at Wick Farm around the same time. Mark's research reveals that it was Uncle Jonas who had died in 1880, his death certified by Dr William Baines Dawson and not Jonas junior as I had previously deduced. I had searched for Kate and the children following Jonas junior's supposed death - problem was I didn't widen my net far enough!

So what happened to our elusive Jonas Clark junior?

The following ten years proved eventful for Kate and Jonas junior.  The couple left Wick Farm in 1882 and moved to Darby Green Farm at Yately, Southampton where in November of that year Jonas junior was declared bankrupt.  Six months later the family moved to Bleddington and at the time of the 1891 census Jonas, then aged 65 was living in Pebworth, Gloucestershire with Kate and their six children.  But the family was still far from settled and within a few years moved yet again to Haselor Hill in Warwickshire. It was here on their small holding that Jonas junior died in 1898 aged 73. They had never been able to marry and Jonas's wife Elizabeth outlived him, dying in 1903 at the age of 92.

Kate continued to farm the property at Haselor Hill with the help of her elder sons and in 1911 she was still there with Clarence, her youngest son and the only one still living at home.  Kate died in 1924 aged 66.

Mark's persistent research has proved a cautionary tale in the danger of jumping to genealogical conclusions.

Former farm labourers cottages on Wick Farm

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lydiard Green - England's Front Line of Defence

The hamlet built on waste land on the edge of Lydiard Millicent has certainly come up in the world.  With property prices nudging half a million pounds, Lydiard Green is today a particularly sought after area.

The settlement at Lydiard Millicent had a tumultuous early history.  Seized by the new Norman king in 1066 the estate at Lydiard was given to William FitzOsbern for his part in the Conquest, while the hamlet at
Lydiard Green was the result of the 17th century enclosure of common land, bringing wealth to the already rich and new levels of poverty to the poor.   By 1766, Frederick St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke owned about 800 acres in the parish in addition to most of neighbouring Lydiard Tregoze.

published courtesy of Wiltshire Community History 

But by the mid 19th century life at Lydiard Green was relatively peaceful if not prosperous.  In 1851 Jacob Morse farmed eight acres with the help of his wife, his sister and his four children.  Alongside the spinster Sly sisters who ran a grocers shop, the cottages at Lydiard Green were home to agricultural labourers employed on local farms.

A Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1863.  Lay preacher and local farmer J.J. Webb hosted the traditional Whit Monday tea party for the congregation at Church Farm and the adjoining Manor Gardens. 
The 1910 Inland Revenue records available for consultation at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham, list property owners and occupiers in the parish of Lydiard Millicent, among them local butcher Harry Howard at number 7 Lydiard Green.

Just across the road from Harry’s shop undertaker Thomas Peer rented a property from Viscount Bolingbroke, which Harry later bought in the 1930 sale of the Lydiard Park estate. The business closed when Harry retired in 1962, the counters, marble slabs, hooks and scales still in place when the new owners took possession in 1986.

In the summer of 1940, less than a year into World War II, the quiet hamlet at Lydiard Green was to unexpectedly find itself in the front line of the country’s defence system. 

With Hitler occupying much of Europe, a German invasion of Britain became a very real threat.  Built to protect London and Britain’s industrial heartland, the General Headquarters Line (GHQ) ran from near Highbridge in Somerset, along the Kennet and Avon canal to Reading and around the South of London to Essex, before heading north to Yorkshire.  A stretch of this 14ft wide and 6ft deep anti tank trench passed through Lydiard Green. 
published courtesy of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

To further fortify the network of anti tank trenches a series of concrete pillboxes were constructed, approximately 28,000 across the country.  Three pillboxes were built close to the road at Lydiard Green, two FW3/28’s and a smaller F/24 model.  Designed to withstand a direct hit by any shell up to 6”, these pillboxes were pretty much indestructible. 

A FW3/28 pill box at Tidmarsh, Berks.

At the end of the war the anti tank trench was filled in but many of the pillboxes still remain, some protected by English Heritage, but many are vandalised and becoming increasingly more dilapidated.

For more information about the threatened invasion of Britain and the UK World War II defence structures log onto

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thomas Kinchin and family

Famed for her 17th century version of online shopping, Lady Johanna St John’s first stop shop was the Lydiard estate home farm Windmill Leaze.

courtesy of the Rumming family, Park Farm, Lydiard Tregoze

The farm appears on the 1672 estate ‘Rent Roll’ when Anthony Street paid £116 per annum for lands at 'Winmill Leeze'.  Elizabeth Beames was the tenant at the beginning of the 19th century but by the 1820s Thomas and Maria Kinchin had taken over the reins, a tenancy that would last for more than 80 years. 

Following Maria’s death in 1837, Thomas married for a second time.  He died on July 18 1840 and is buried with his infant grandson James Henry Pyke Kinchin at St Mary’s, Lydiard Tregoze.

Thomas had written his will the previous year.  He dispenses with the usual religious preamble and cuts straight to the chase.

‘This is the last Will and Testament of me Thomas Kinchin of Liddiard Treegooze in the County of Wilts Yeoman I give and bequeath unto my wife Martha all the goods and plate which she possessed before our marriage to and for her own absolute use and benefit.’

He names his executors as neighbour Henry Eveleigh and William Bryant of Broad Town and sets aside the sum of twenty pounds a piece for them.

‘My will and mind is that my said trustees or the survivor of them his executors or administrators shall in the meantime carry on the farming business now carried on by myself for the benefit of my said wife and children if permitted by my landlord to occupy the farm now occupied by me and from the profits arising therefrom to maintain my said four children and my said wife Martha,’ Thomas writes.  If this is not possible he instructs that his executors to sell everything and divide the proceeds between his four children and Martha, providing she hasn’t remarried.

courtesy of Lydiard Park

But just three months before his death he adds a codicil to the will.  William Bryant, his named executor, has recently died and Thomas appoints Thomas Withers of Haydon, Rodbourne Cheney in his place.  Thomas’s wife’s maiden name was Withers, so this is no doubt a member of her family.

Lord Bolingbroke was obviously happy for the farm to remain in the Kinchin family hands, which it did until the next century.

Marriages with neighbouring Plummer and Cole families followed and the Kinchins spread their wings. Thomas’s great grandchildren, William John Plummer Kinchin, Thomas Stephen Cole Kinchin, Annie (Elsie) Elizabeth Kinchin and their newly married sister Eleanor and her husband Frederick Sutton all left for Australia in 1913.  Annie (Elsie) eventually returned home where she married William Grewcock in 1923.  William and Thomas appear on the Victoria electoral roll where William is working as a fencer while Thomas is a labourer.  Thomas came home to visit his sister Ethel who farmed at Elm Grove in Shaw during 1949 but by 1962 he was back in Australia.

courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball -

Sisters Hilda and Ethel never married and continued to live in the Lydiards.  Hilda died in 1973 – a chair in All Saints Church, Lydiard Millicent is dedicated to her memory.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Johanna's Miracle Garden

The 18th century walled garden at Lydiard Park is the perfect setting for Swindon's Youth Theatre summer production - Johanna's Miracle Garden.  This is the story of Lady Johanna's challenge to the greatest medical and philosophical minds of the day, to find the ultimate recipe to complete her book of cures for all ills.

Lady Johanna St John and her husband Sir Walter spent most of the year at their Battersea home, convenient for Westminster where Sir Walter represented Wiltshire in 1656, 1659, 1679, 1681, 1690 and Wootton Bassett in 1661.  His political career was pretty lack lustre and apparently he made no speeches and served on just 34 committees, although to his credit he did turn up regularly.  Walter and Johanna were described as being 'eminent for owning and practising religion' and the impression is that they were quite a serious couple.

During their absence the Lydiard estate came under the watchful eye of the couple's steward Thomas Hardyman with whom Lady Johanna was in constant correspondence.  Letters survive between the two exchanging news and gossip, housekeeping tasks and of course Lady Johanna's garden, which stood to the south east of the old mansion house.  The old walled and formal gardens were swept away when her grandson John landscaped the parkland in the 18th century.

Lady Johanna's 1680 Booke, a collection of pills and potions, includes recipes for everything from cosmetics and perfumes to cures for a persistent cough and rickets.  Left in Lady Johanna's will to her daughter Anne Cholmondeley the book is now held by the Wellcome Library, a repository of books, manuscripts and archives recording the history of medicine, and can be viewed on line.

Written by Mike Akers, directed by Chris Gardner and designed by Sue Condie, Johanna's Miracle Garden has a cast of geeky scientists pitched against wizards and witches who battle it out to win Lady Jo's challenge - with astonishing results!  The open air theatre production takes place across the weekend of August 10 -12 with performances at 1pm and 4pm.  For more information visit or telephone the box office at Swindon Arts Centre on 01793 614837.

This modern production heralds a series of forthcoming events to celebrate the life and work of Lady Johanna St John.  Visit the website on for more details.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace

On Sunday July 29 the Walled Garden at Lydiard Park opens its doors as part of the National Garden Scheme.  Admission charges are adults £2.50, seniors £2 and children £1 with all proceeds going to the NGA.

And if the cold, grey British summer weather is playing havoc with your hot house plants, spare a thought for Gillian Cox, Keeper of the Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace.

Planted more than 240 years ago by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the present keeper has a fatalistic approach to her famous charge. Although vines are long lived plants 'there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,' and when the Grim Reaper calls time, well - it's been 'grape' fun.

With exotic fruits available in supermarkets the year round it is difficult to imagine a time when grapes were a luxury item. The Black Hamburg was something of a status symbol when Capability Brown planted it in 1769.  The original cutting was given to Brown by Charles Raymond from a plant at Valentine's Mansion, near Wanstead, Essex.  Today the vine measures 12 feet (4 metres) round the base and the longest rod is 120 feet (36.5 metres).

At a talk in the magnificent King's Apartments, Gillian described a year in the life of the vine she has carefully attended for more than twenty years.  She explained how, if left to its own devices, the vine would produce an abundance of fruit and then shut down and lie dormant for a year or more.  Too many grapes at this stage in the vine's long history might even spell it's end, so careful pruning takes place early in the year.  An average crop is about 600lbs with the grapes ripening at the end of August and sold in the Palace gift shops during September.

The present greenhouse dates from 1969 when a new aluminium framework was constructed over a former wooden one.  Daily visitors once numbered 6000 but on a bleak, wet day in July my daughter and I were the only ones in the viewing area.

The prestigious Hampton Court Flower Show has just three more days to run.  For more details visit the website on, while the Great Vine can be seen any time - Hampton Court Palace is open Monday-Sunday 10.00 to 18.00.

And closer to home don't forget the NGA event in the Walled Garden at Lydiard Park.  For more details about this and the Swindon Youth Theatre presentation 'Johanna's Miracle Garden,' visit the website on 

Friday, June 15, 2012

In the tavern with a sword ...

You know how it happens - a group of lads out on the town, everyone's having a good laugh and then one bloke has a drink too many.  And before you've worked out who said what to whom, someone's got their rapier out.

Born in 1652 Henry St John was the second child and eldest son of Sir Walter and Lady Johanna.  He grew up at the Battersea Manor House under the stern eye of his Puritan mother during the austere post war years of the Commonwealth.

With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 it could be fairly said that Henry entered into the spirit of the new age.  Anxious to save him from his worst excesses, Sir Walter and Lady Johanna swiftly married him off in 1673 to Mary Rich, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick.  Sir Walter settled the Lydiard estate on his eldest son and the newly weds divided their time between Battersea and Wiltshire.

But in 1684 Henry was between marriages.  His first wife Mary had died in 1678 following the birth of their only surviving child and his second wife to be, Angelica Pelissary had just arrived in England bethrothed to her first husband Philip Wharton.

Temporarily let off the marital leash, Henry fully indulged his predilection for partying, gambling and racing.  It was during a night out with the boys in that popular watering hole, the Devil Tavern, Fleet Street, that the talk turned to who owned the best horses.

Along with Sir William Estcott, MP for Malmesbury, and Henry's cousin Edmund Richmond-Webb, the group left the Devil and moved on to the Globe, round the corner in Shoe Lane.  A Tryal of Racing between Henry and Sir William was proposed with a bet of £100 - but then it all got rather out of hand.  Some insults were bandied about - Henry called Escott an ass who replied that Henry was a fool.

Out came the weapons and before you could say 'calm down boys' Estcott lay dead on the tavern floor.  Henry and Edmund were committed to Newgate prison to await their appearance at the Old Bailey where they were jointly charged with murder and manslaughter.

On December 13 the two men were sentenced to death; their estates seized by the crown.  But Henry and Edmund had friends and family in high places.  Henry's cousin Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine, long time mistress of the King and mother of five of his illegitimate children, interceded for them.

Just eleven days later Charles II issued a warrant that the sentences should be quashed and their forfeited estates restored - albeit at a price.  It is believed that an estimated £16,000 was paid to secure their reprieve, with Henry's portion paid by Sir Walter and Lady Johanna.

Henry decided a move abroad might be advisable, but he wasn't gone long.  By March 1685 he was back in England where he was returned as MP for the family seat at Wootton Bassett.

Did he see the error of his ways?  It's doubtful, but he never killed anyone else - well not as far as is known.  He went on to marry Angelica Pelissary on January 1, 1686/7 although he never did quite fit the bill as family man, and his eldest son, the statesman Henry Viscount Bolingbroke, loathed him.

Unlike poor Sir William, whose family line was wiped out when he died aged 30, Henry lived another 58 years.  He died in 1742 aged 89 and was buried at St Mary's Church, Battersea.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hungerford Bridge

During the Queen's Jubilee Pageant on the Thames the flotilla of 1,000 vessels passed beneath 14 of London's historic bridges, including London Bridge, which marks the site of the first crossing of the Thames.  The present bridge replaced the 1830s version sold to the American McCulloch Oil Corporation in 1968 for a reputed £1,029,000.  During the 18th century the river was twice it's present width and flowed at half the speed it does today.  There remained only one bridge across the Thames until 1750 when Westminster Bridge was built.

Friends and followers of Lydiard House and the St John family might be interested in the history of another of London's famous bridges with a familiar sounding name - Hungerford.

Hungerford Bridge was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1845.  Southwark shoppers paid a half penny toll to cross the original suspension bridge built to connect the south bank with the market from which the bridge took its name.

The site of Hungerford Market dates to the 15th century when it belonged to Sir Walter 1st Baron Hungerford, Lucy Hungerford's great-great-great-great-great grandfather. It was Lucy Hungerford who married Sir John St John in about 1584 and is depicted in the St John polypytch in St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze. Following Sir John's death she married her cousin Sir Anthony Hungerford.  Her son by this second marriage, Parliamentarian leader Sir Edward Hungerford, inherited Hungerford House from his great uncle.  When he died in 1648 the property passed to his nephew, the son of his half brother Sir Anthony Hungerford.

It was this Edward who, encouraged by the success of Covent Garden, decided to develop his property, then called Hungerford Inn.  A 1678 Act of Parliament granted Edward authority to let the ground on building leases and to hold a market there on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The prospects were good for this commercial enterprise when the market opened in 1682, but somewhat surprisingly the market never prospered and Edward quickly began selling off parcels of land.  Sir Christopher Wren bought a quarter of the property and the market house built in the centre of the site was thought to have been designed by him.

Subsequent owners included architect Henry Wise who bought the property in 1718 and in 1830 it was acquired by the newly created Hungerford Market Company.  In 1851 Hungerford Hall was built for lectures and shows but just three years later the property was burnt down when it caught fire during a panorama of the Duke of Wellington's Funeral.  The fire also damaged the Market Hall, causing yet more financial problems for the Hungerford Market Company.  In 1862 the whole property was bought by the Charing Cross Railway Company.  The area was cleared and is today the site of Charing Cross Station.

Brunel's original suspension bridge was bought by the South Eastern Railway company in 1859. It was replaced with a structure designed by Sir John Hawkshaw using Brunel's brick pile buttresses, which continue to support the bridge up to the present day.

Read more about Lucy Hungerford on my other blog