Sunday, 27 May 2012

Gentleman Jackson's boxing academy

John Jackson won the title Champion of England in 1795 at the age of 26, beating the celebrated boxer Daniel Mendoza at Hornchurch in Essex. Jackson was five years younger, 4 inches taller, and 42 lbs. heavier. The bigger man won in nine rounds, paving the way to victory by seizing Mendoza by his long hair and holding him with one hand while he pounded his head with the other. Mendoza was pummelled into submission in around ten minutes. Since this date boxers have worn their hair short.
Following this fight Jackson, who was friendly with the fencing master Henry Angello, set up a boxing academy for gentlemen at 13 Bond Street, London and which was next to Angello's fencing school, from where many gentlemen were directed. Jackson's Saloon soon became popular with the nobility and gentry. Lord Byron relates in his diary that he received instruction in boxing from Jackson.

Jackson died in 1847 and his memorial can be seen in Brompton Cemetery 

(Nearest tube Green Park for 13 Bond Street and Earl's Court or West Brompton for the cemetery).

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Almack's Club

Unlike all other London clubs, Almack's, on King Street in St. James, was governed by a select committee of the most influential and exclusive ladies in London society. These fair arbiters imposed an aura of exclusivity on the balls held on Wednesday nights. They allowed only those whom they approved to buy the non-transferrable annual vouchers, which cost ten guineas, and to lose one's voucher meant that one had been tried and found wanting, in short a social disaster. Refreshments in the supper rooms consisted of thinly-sliced bread with fresh butter, and a dry cake similar to pound cake. To avoid drunkenness, only tea and lemonade were served in the supper rooms. Besides the dancing and supper rooms, Almack's also provided gaming rooms for those who preferred cards to dancing.

(Nearest tube Green Park).

Monday, 21 May 2012

White Lodge, Richmond, Surrey

White Lodge is a Georgian house situated in Richmond Park. The house was built as a hunting lodge for George II. It was later occupied by George II's daughter, Princess Amelia, who also became the Ranger of Richmond Park. She closed the entire park to the public, except to distinguished friends and those with permits, sparking public outrage. In 1758 a court case made by a local brewer against a park gatekeeper eventually overturned the Princess's order, and the park was once again opened to the public. After restoration of the house following disrepair in the late 18th century, George III gave the house to Prime Minister, Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth, who enclosed the lodge's first private gardens in 1805. The King made himself Ranger, with Lord Sidmouth as Deputy Ranger. Among the more famous visitors to White Lodge during this period was Lord Nelson in the month before the Battle of Trafalgar. He is said to have explained his battle plan to Lord Sidmouth by drawing lines on the table with a wine-moistened finger. It is now occupied by the Royal Ballet School.

Nearest tube Richmond or Kew Gardens and a very, very long walk!

The Second Theatre Royal, Covent Garden

In 1728, John Rich, actor-manager of the Duke's Company at Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, commissioned The Beggar's Opera from John Gay. The success of this venture provided him with the capital to build the Theatre Royal at the site of an ancient convent garden, part of which had been developed by Inigo Jones in the 1630s with a piazza and church. At its opening on 7 December 1732, Rich was carried by his actors in processional triumph into the theatre for its opening production of William Congreve's The Way of the WorldGeorge Frideric Handel was named musical director of the company and his first season of opera at Covent Garden was in 1734. He bequeathed his organ, and it was placed in a prominent position on the stage, but was among many valuable items lost in a fire that destroyed the theatre in 1808.
Rebuilding began in December 1808, and the second Theatre Royal, Covent Garden (designed by Robert Smirke) opened on 18 September 1809 with a performance of Macbeth, with Sarah Siddons as the Lady. The actor-manager John Philip Kemble had raised seat prices to help recoup the cost of rebuilding, but the move was so unpopular that audiences disrupted performances by beating sticks, hissing, booing and dancing. The Old Price Riots lasted over two months, and the management was finally forced to accede to the audience's demands.

The nearest tube is Covent Gadren, of course.

Tyburn Turnpike and Oxford Street

The Tyburn Turnpike, at the junction of the Oxford Road (now Bayswater Road) and Oxford Street, was described at the time as: the grandest passage into our immense metropolis. Oxford-street, from its uniform breadth, its commodious and spacious foot-way, and great extent, being one mile and a quarter, is allowed to be one of the finest streets in Europe. Oxford Street follows the route of a Roman road, the via Trinobantina, and became one of the major routes in and out of the city. In the late 18th century many of the surrounding fields were purchased by the Earl of Oxford, and the area was developed, with many shops appearing from the Regency period onwards.
A turnpike is a gate set across the road to stop carts until a toll was paid, and the money collected was used to maintain the highway. The Tyburn Turnpike was near to where the "Tyburn Tree" was erected. This was the gallows on which, until 1783, public hangings took place in London. A plaque commemorating the gallows lays near to Marble Arch.

Nearest tube Marble Arch.

Ayre's Brewery & Hickford's Room

Around 1664 Thomas Ayres, a brewer, built a brewery on the north side of Little Pulteney Street (now part of Brewer Street) . By 1700, when the brewery had stood unused for several years, an expenditure of at least £1000 was required to put the building back into repair, and the Ayres found two brewing partners, Robert Billings and John Lanyon, to purchase the brewery. A nineteenth-century plan of the site shows an irregularly shaped yard approached half-way along by a narrow entrance on the east side of Little Windmill Street with a main entrance in Little Pulteney Street. A dwelling-house stood in the yard near the main entrance and the brewery buildings were ranged on either side of the yard. The brewery continued in use until 1826, when the then owners were declared bankrupt.
In 1718 Nicholas Dubois of St. Martin's in the Fields let a plot of ground on the south side of Brewer Street. Dubois was an architect of French birth who had lived in England for some years and built himself a house on the site. By 1738 it was tennanted by John Hickford, whose family had managed a dancing school in Panton Street since 1696. There is no direct evidence whether John Hickford built the concert room to the rear of Dubois' house which until 1934 stood behind No. 41 Brewer Street, or whether he moved there because the room was already in existence. Hickford's Room enjoyed its greatest fame in the 1740s and 50s, when it was the only concert room of note in the West End of London. The winter series of subscription concerts were a recognized part of the fashionable London season, and works by Handel, Arne and Boyce were frequently performed there, sometimes, perhaps, in the composer's presence. Most famously was the notice of 11 March 1765 in the Public Advertiser which read:

For the Benefit of Miss MOZART of Thirteen, and Master MOZART of Eight [sic] Years of Age, Prodigies of Nature. HICKFORD'S Great Room in Brewer Street, Monday, May 13 will be A CONCERT of MUSIC With all the OVERTURES of this little Boy's own Composition

The decline of Hickford's Room began shortly after this with the opening of more and more competition. Between 1791 and 1814 there was a series of short tenancies; and the building was sometimes empty. In 1793 there was a fencing match, in 1794–5 a series of charity concerts for the 'Society of French Emigrants', and in 1797 lectures by 'one Jones and others of public notoriety' against religion and morality.

Nearest tube Piccadilly.

Thomas Lord's Second Ground

When in 1810 he was forced from the Dorset Square ground he established for the newly formed Marylebone Cricket Club in 1787, Thomas Lord moved a few hundred yards north. While for the purposes of the book I have attributed the landlords to be the Harding family, what is true is the length of the lease (88 years, for which he received very generous compensation) and the fact the building of the Regent Canal forced him to move again, this time to a duck pond he purchased another few cricket fields further north in St John's Wood – now the home of cricket. Lord Byron's report of the first Eton v. Harrow match at Lord's first ground in 1808 summed up the gregarious nature of the sport in the Regency. It took the Victorians to impose order – it is not for nothing that while most sports have a rule book, cricket has laws. Pictured above is the memorial in Lisson Grove and another plaque to the north end of Lisson Green estate.

Nearest tube Baker Street or Marylebone.

St Mary-le-Bone church

The third church in Mary-le-Bone was built in 1740 and replaced another small church on the same site. Charles Wesley, composer of Hark the Herald Angels Sing among other great hymns, was the Rector of St Mary-le-Bone. He died on 29 March 1788 and his body laid to rest St Mary-le-Bone Church graveyard. A memorial stone to him stands in the gardens in the High Street in modern Marylebone, close to where he was buried. Lord Byron was baptised there in 1788. and Admiral Lord Nelson worshipped there and his daughter Horatia was baptised in that church. The Chapel in Portman Square (long gone) was attached to St Mary-le-Bone. The church was replaced by the current one at the tip of the High Street in the 1820s.

Nearest tube Baker Street or Marble Arch.

Hunterian Medical School

Set up by the eminent physician William Hunter in Soho's Great Windmill Street in the 1760s, the school which Decimus Doyle attends was one of several in London educating gentlemen in the medical arts. Medical practices were often barbaric, using similar methods that had been common for centuries, which yielded little other than killing the patient with a different affliction than the original ailment. Leeching (or blood letting), purgation and cold water dousing were common. There were three medical institutions: the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Society of Apothecaries. Physicians were university-educated and considered the most knowledgeable about medicine. They were not permitted to act as surgeons or dispense drugs as apothecaries. They were only permitted to examine patients, diagnose disease, and prescribe medications, and in 1800 there were 179 licensed physicians, though there were many more unlicensed ones. Decimus Doyle, therefore, was entering a rarified world. Surgeons performed operations, set broken bones, and treated accident cases and skin disorders. Apothecaries were not only druggists responsible for the sale, compounding, and supply of drugs but, thanks to the Apothecaries Act of 1815, were able to provide medical advice and prescribe medication themselves. 

Nearest tube Piccadilly.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Portman Square

The square was built between 1674-1684 on the land of Henry William Portman. The most notable properties were Home House, built by Robert Adam for Elizabeth, Countess of Home, and Montagu House, built by James Stuart for Mrs Elizabeth Montagu and destroyed during the Blitz. In the book Home House is occupied by the Duke of Atholl, Grand Master of the Ancients. Here is a drawing of the main staircase of Home House, from the Sir John Soane Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, to give a taste of the grandeur of the properties.

The Honourable Basil Cochrane's mansion in Portman Square was described as being among the largest in the square, at the south west corner, and also accommodated the ambassador of the Ottoman Sultan (Turkey). Cochrane also set up his Indian vapour baths to the side of the property.

Nearest tube Marble Arch.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Hindostanee Coffee House

From The Times:

HINDOSTANEE COFFEE-HOUSE, No. 34 George-street, Portman square - MAHOMED, East-Indian, informs the Nobility and Gentry, he has fitted up the above house, neatly and elegantly, for the entertainment of Indian gentlemen, where they may enjoy the Hoakha, with real Chilm tobacco, and India dishes, in the highest perfection, and allowed by the greated epicures to be unequalled to any curries ever made in England with choice wines, and every accommodation, and now looks up to them for their future patronage and support, and gratefully acknowledges himself indebted for their former favours, and trusts it will merit the highest satisfaction when made known to the public.

Spelling is subjective, though the plaque makers might have referred to the coffee house name as in Mahomet's original advertisement (above). That said, I have retained the first version of his name as published in the 1780s book (the T for a D) throughout. 34 George Street became 92 in 1872 and was completely re-built in 1957. The green plaque resides at 102 for practical reasons! The picture below was taken in the 1950s before the terrace was re-built. The Hindostanee Coffee House was in the property to the far right, on the corner.

Nearest tube Marble Arch.

Sake Dean Mahomet

Born in Patna in 1759, around the age of eleven Mahomet was taken on by a young Irishman, Godfrey Evan Baker, who was quartermaster of the 3rd European Regiment of the Bengal Army – the British East India Company's military force in India. As a follower of Mr Baker, Mahomet rose through the ranks to become a subadar (a mid-ranking officer and the highest an Indian could achieve). When Baker returned to Ireland in the 1780s Mahomet joined him, settling to run Baker's small estate outside Cork. During this time he became the first Indian to write and publish a book in English – The Travels of Dean Mahomet. Here he fell for and eloped with a "pretty Irish girl of respectable parentage", Jane Daly. They married in Dublin when Mahomet converted to Christianity. After the untimely death of Mr Baker, Mahomet journeyed to London where he managed the household of the Nabob, the Honourable Basil Cochrane. He opened The Hindostanee Coffee House in 1810, which purveyed Indian dishes "allowed by the greatest epicures to be unequalled to any curries ever made in England".