Cultural Capital section | Georgian Era Figures [1714-1837]




Grantley Berkeley [18001881]
Writer & Social Commentator

The aristocratic failed novelist turned nonfiction writer spent summers on the coast locally for decades, and chronicled its early days as a resort.
The Honourable Grantley F. Berkeley MP, author of at least 9 books, was a colourful, eccentric leading figure in local society when the area was just developing as a spa-resort and in his memoirs wrote a less-than-reverent account of its emerging upper-crust society at a time when Victorian sensibilities were supplanting Regency ones.
Although MP for Gloucester for two decades from 1831, around 1830 he established a summer seaside residence in the Mudeford-Highcliffe area, occupying Beacon Lodge, on the clifftop just east of Highcliffe Castle (then still being built). He did not own it - it was rented by other VIPs such as the Bishop of London in 1837, but he seems to have spent most summers here for at least two decades (presumably when the Commons was in recess). Later he retired to Alderney Manor in Poole.
As he is not well-known, we have a separate feature page up on GFB, here.

Mary Eleanor Bowes [1749-1800]
Poet

Mary Eleanor Bowes was a Bournemouth resident 1798[?] -1800 at Stourfield House [demolished 1991, plaque on new bldg Douglas Mews].
Countess of Strathmore and one of England’s wealthiest heiresses, MEB died here after a notoriously unhappy marital life, a situation best known as the inspiration for Thackeray’s 1841 novel Barry Lyndon. The model for the novel’s opportunistic fortune-seeking scoundrel was her 2nd husband, who held her in miserable capitivity; when finally able to break free after a public scandal, she retired to a house on Stourfield Heath. She was something of a writer herself, first of a verse drama The Siege of Jerusalem, and then of her Confessions. Though there was more public interest in the latter, the former work got the Countess, an ancestor of the present monarch, a tombstone in Westminster Abbey’s Poets' Corner.
As she and her local links are not that well-known, we have a separate feature page up on MEB, here.

Sarah Frances Drax Grosvenor [1788-1822]
Amateur Playwright & Sketch Artist

A family summer home, Cliff Cottage, was built on the Westcliff pre-1815; it and the road named after it [Cliff Cottage Rd] are now part of the Bournemouth International Centre site.
SFD, otherwise Mrs Richard Drax Grosvenor, heiress to the Charborough estates, wrote a satiric sketch, an amateur-theatricals playlet which is historical interest for the clues it offers about early Bournemouth society at the time of Waterloo. "A Peep Into Futurity..." provides a portrait of Bourne circa 1815, soon after the Tregonwells and other “first familes” had moved in. Written under the pen-name "Meg Merilees" (a gypsy character in the 1815 Sir Walter Scott novel Guy Mannering), it survived in handwritten form (with pen’n ink sketches), and was transcribed and quoted in town histories.
Done in the fashion of the time as a private family entertainment, it is the first known literary or dramatic work composed and set in the new ‘marine village’ of Bourne, which in the 1840s would become ‘Bournemouth’.

Benjamin Ferrey [1810-80]
Architect

Benjamin Ferrey, F.S.A., F.R.I.B.A., was Bournemouth's founding architect.
Ferrey was born at Christchurch, the son of a Mayor of Christchurch. When his talent for drawing became evident, he was sent to London to study architectural draftmanship with the firm of Pugin, whose precociously talented son, Ferrey's friend and contemporary Augustus W. N. Pugin (1812-52) he would work alongside. Ferrey became a founding member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and returned to his birthplace with his 1834 study Antiquities Of The Priory Church Of Christchurch, whose restoration both Ferrey and his friend Pugin worked on. He established his own architectural practice in London and, commissioned in 1836 by Bournemouth's major landowner Sir George Tapps-Gervis to develop his Westover Estate, he drafted a plan for a 'marine village'. The Bath Hotel and the Westover Villas were the immediate result, but some other features he drew up were never built. [See banner images at page top and bottom.]
He worked on many church buildings in Dorset and elsewhere and also designed the gateway and two chapels for Christchurch Cemetery. In 1861, he also wrote a memoir of his work with Pugin, documenting their work within the English Gothic revival movement.

Colonel Peter Hawker [1786 – 1853]
Sportsman and Author

Hawker was noted for his sporting diaries, which largely document his pursuit of local wildfowl from his base at Keyhaven, and contain many descriptions of the local coast, from Christchurch Bay to Poole, over a 50-year period.
Originally a Captain of Dragoons with Wellington in the Peninsular War, Hawker was wounded and invalided home, though he would return to military service via the Hampshire militia in later years.
Shooting-mad, he would regularly venture down, in all weathers, from his estate outside Andover to stay at what he called 'Wigeon Cottage ...my little gunning place' just north of the present-day Gun Inn at Keyhaven. He wrote several books, starting with his Advice To Young Sportsmen in 1814, but it is his published Diaries, covering some five decades, that are of most interest here. He describes the often extreme weather of the early 19C, the local inns at Bournemouth, Poole, Studland etc., and other aspects of the local wildfowl (mainly widgeon ducks) hunting scene, which was then a major part of the local economy. (Hawker did not approve of the many local amateur duck hunters, but they were obviously shooting game for food, whereas he was doing it for pure 'sport.') His descriptions and sketches [see example below] provide a window into an otherwise neglected area of local history.

 

Captain Frederick Marryat [1792-1848]
Author


‘Captain Marryat’ - Frederick Marryat, author of sea tales and the children’s-adventure classic The Children Of The New Forest, stayed in Christchurch while writing his books.

Known to his readers as ‘Captain Marryat’, FM resigned his naval commission in 1830 to take up writing full time. Before his final and best-known work, his tales were nearly all sea adventures inspired by his own real-life experiences, such as his popular Mr Midshipman Easy (1836), The Three Cutters (1836; part-set locally, with scenes between Cowes and Portland), and the colourfully titled Snarleyyow Or The Dog Fiend (1837), also part-set locally, around Wight c1699.
Marryat was also a cartoonist: “When in need of ready cash he drew cartoons, which were made into etchings by his friend George Cruikshank.” His 1819 'Hydromania,’ with its lurking peeping-tom figure spying on the nude women bathers at Lyme, prefigures the ribald seaside postcard humour of Donald McGill.
Naval service included serving on the Dorset coast, in command of the Excise cutter HMS Rosario in 1821. His sojourns at his brother’s house at Chewton Glen in the SW corner of the New Forest eventually inspired his 1847 classic The Children Of The New Forest, set nearby around Sway during the English Civil War. He wrote Children Of The New Forest at Chewton Glen house, then owned by FM’s brother Frank, his country house on the edge of Christchurch, now the 5-star Chewton Glen Hotel.
Captain Woodes Rogers [1679? –1732]
Nautical Writer & Literary Inspiration

The mariner from a Poole seafaring family whose detailed record of his pioneering circumnavigation became a sourcebook for later writers of nautical fiction, and whose account of his rescue en route of a desert-island castaway inspired Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and who later became famous as the official who crushed the real pirates of the Caribbean, dramatised in the tv series Black Sails.
As he is not that well-known l0cally, we have a separate gallery page up on him, here.

William Stewart Rose [1775 – 1843]
Poet, Translator
and Literary Host

William Stewart Rose from 1796 lived during the summer in a Christchurch seaside villa, built in front of Sandhills House, residence of Rose's diplomat brother.

William Stewart Rose was a son of George Rose, the Christchurch MP known as “Pitt’s Rose” for his key role in the Cabinet of Pitt the Younger, and his brother the diplomat Sir George Henry Rose. WSR himself was MP for Christchurch 1796-1800, but his personal interests were more literary. He was a translator of Continental and Mid-Eastern medieval romances and became friendly with other literary figures like Sir Walter Scott.
WSR had built a seafront villa at Mudeford he named “Gundimore” (the heroine in a poem he translated) and writers stayed there from time to time: Scott, Southey, Coleridge. Scott wrote part of his epic verse work Marmion while here in 1807, dedicating its first canto to WSR, and later worked on his first, pioneering historical novel Waverley [1814] here. The future Poet Laureate Robert Southey lived for a time nearby, and his brother-in-law the poet Samuel Coleridge later stayed with Rose. While a house-guest, Coleridge promised to compose a poem about the house; but when he failed to deliver, WSR wrote one himself commemorating the visits of Coleridge and Scott (“Gundimore” 1816, collected in his Rhymes, 1837). WSR wrote other verse of his own, such as his ballad adaptations of New Forest legends such as the slaying of William Rufus, and his 1810 "King Edward The Martyr", on the young king slain at Corfe. But it would be as a literary host he is remembered, for making his seaside home “Gundimore” into a fashionable Regency-era literary retreat.

Lady Louisa Stuart [1757 – 1851]
Literary Figure

Based at Highcliff manor, Christchurch, Lady Louisa Stuart was an influential but still elusive literary figure as she did not allow anything to be published in her lifetime under her own name.


Her mother having married John Stuart (1713-92), the future PM Lord Bute, who built ‘High Cliff’ House 1775, LS would have spent summers on the estate here as a young woman. High Cliff House was demolished in 1813 due to cliff erosion and replaced in 1835 by the present Highcliffe Castle, which became the family’s seaside retreat.
Lady Louisa Stuart was the daughter of George III’s court favourite and short-lived PM [1762-3] and was the grand-daughter of Lady Mary Wortley Montague [1689 – 1762), a famous literary correspondent of her time, in whose literary footsteps LS soon followed. She wrote verse and other imaginative works, as well nonfiction such as biography. But being self-conscious of her status as a lady (and single woman) in Georgian society, she did not allow anything to be published under her own name. This included correspondence with her friend Sir Walter Scott, her letters – which Scott thought invaluable criticism - rendered anonymous in his published Letters in 1837.
Lady Louisa Stuart’s insistence on not putting her name to anything published in her lifetime may also have perhaps been the result of having seen how her father, George III's first Prime Minister, was driven out of office by a sometimes scurrilous ‘tabloid’ press campaign. It may also have been due to her seeing her grand-mother Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's tribulations over her published writings, to some of which Lady Louisa later wrote an introduction – anonymously of course. (MW had to leave England in 1716 when one of her satiric 'court eclogues' was interpreted as an attack on Princess Caroline, and she was later publicly attacked in verses by poet Alexander Pope.) Nothing credited to Lady Louisa was published until 1895, and some of her work still reportedly remains unpublished, including some of her fiction and verse.

Richard Warner [1763 – 1853]
Antiquary, Nonfiction Writer

The Rev. Richard Warner attended school in the loft of Christchurch Priory in the 1770s, from where he had a view over the surrounding countryside down to Hengistbury Head, an Ancient Monument as well as a scenic viewpoint about which he also wrote a long descriptive poem. RW was an “antiquary” i.e. someone who took an interest in studying the past. In his case, it included his own era, which he wrote of in his detailed 1830 memoir Literary Recollections, which covered his schooling at the Priory and his clerical apprenticeship under William Gilpin the vicar of Boldre in the New Forest. Gilpin was a pioneer of the cult of the picturesque who was a literary influence on RW via his books, which included Gilpin’s 1791 Remarks On Forest Scenery, on the New Forest. Warner went on to author various ‘topographical’ guidebooks, some of local interest. He also wrote rather flowery verse, sections of which are freely incorporated in his memoirs. His first book was a romantic novel: his 1785 Netley Abbey, a mediaeval-Gothic novel set at the ruined abbey on Southampton Water.
However after that, he turned to nonfiction in the form of antiquarian guides to localities. He was soon obviously a well-known author of these, for a 1795 History Of Hampshire published under his name is now thought to be someone else's work. Conversely, RW wrote other works hiding behind various pen names, notably some privately circulated satirical works on polite society in Bath, where he relocated in 1794, becoming its leading “man of letters” [DNB]. His output (what he calls ‘my literary bantlings’) overall is classed as ‘voluminous’ (over 40 titles), though only his nonfiction works remain of any contemporary interest. As its title suggests, his 2-volume 1830 memoir Literary Recollections is a first-hand source of information for local historians about the ‘literary men’ of the Christchurch area in the late 18C, such as Edmund Bott of Stourfield House [see Mary Bowes entry].
 
 
Benjamin Ferrey's original 1830s master plan for Bourne Marine Village.
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