A right matron carry-on

Continuing the saga of the first matron appointment, the first name on the list of candidates for the post of matron was Mrs Mary Miller of No 18 St James Place, “recommended by the Royal Patroness [Duchess of Cumberland], the Rt Hon Elizabeth Luttrell, Mr Hale, Mr Millington, The Rev’d Wm Conillis, Miss Mary Gates, Mrs Ann Gates, James Meyrick Esq, several others residing in the country wishing to vote by proxy.” (Rough Minute Book)

“Strype described St. James’s Place in 1720 as ‘a good Street’ which opened wide ‘towards the upper End, . . . and receiveth a fresh Air out of the Park: the Houses are well built, and inhabited by Gentry, especially the upper Part, where the Houses are larger and better built and inhabited’ … The site of the present Nos. 17–20 St. James’s Place and No. 7 Park Place (six houses in all) was part of Cleveland House garden mortgaged by John Rossington to Hannah Standish. In 1690 Rossington sold it to the Marquis of Halifax, who paid £2700.

Building plots were laid out and were leased separately by the Marquis in 1690 to the Rossingtons … None of these houses has survived in recognizable form ….”  Where No 17 had been, a new building was built in c.1900 and it became the Stafford Hotel in 1912. ‘St. James’s Place’, in Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, ed. F H W Sheppard (London, 1960), pp. 511-541 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols29-30/pt1/pp511-541 [accessed 27 March 2015].

Stafford hotel composite
Stafford Hotel

(The composite picture above shows the front of the hotel today and an historical image from c.1912 of the back)

John Rossington, described as a speculator, “first appears in the St. James’s area in 1671 when, under the description of John Rossington of St. Martin’s in the Fields, gentleman, he took a lease from Ambrose Scudamore of a piece of land on the south side of Pall Mall on which he built several houses … There are several references to a ‘Rossington’, who may have been John, in Hooke’s Diary during the 1670’s, in circumstances suggesting an interest in the rebuilding of the City after the Fire, [but these] were all minor schemes compared with the development of the Cleveland House estate, in which Rossington, described as a ‘Master builder’, was assisted by his brother Joseph, a bricklayer, a nephew Joseph and, to a lesser degree, by a Robert Rossington, who was probably a lawyer.”

“Judging from the number of lawsuits in which John Rossington became involved with the workmen engaged by him to develop the sites, he was not an efficient man of business.” He was declared insolvent and in about 1700 “was arrested at the instigation of his creditors and imprisoned. He ‘removed himselfe’ by habeas corpus to the Fleet and died about 1702” ‘Cleveland Row’, in Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, ed. F H W Sheppard (London, 1960), pp. 487-509 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols29-30/pt1/pp487-509 [accessed 27 March 2015].

map of St James Place
Map of St James Place with No 18 marked

The map above, from http://www.british-history.ac.uk, has the site of No 18 marked. The reference in Strype that it was an area occupied by the gentry might imply that Mrs Miller was employed by the occupier of No 18 and might account for her being known to the Duchess of Cumberland. The occupant of the property at the time is not clear. It is known that Richard Jones, third Viscount and first Earl of Ranelagh lived there but that was in 1707; Colonel Bernard Hale, 1756–63 was also known to have resided there but his dates are too early; at No. 18a, was Charles Townshend, first Baron Bayning, politician, 1777–82 whose dates are closer but still not exact. What is known is that the Rough Minute Book records that “Mrs Miller had been seen and examined by the Royal Patroness who had strongly recommended her in a Letter which her Royal Highness had commanded him to write to the Committee and Governors at large, as a person amply qualified to fill the Office of Matron and hoped that they would show their Approbation of her Royal Highness’ recommendation by the Election: That She was also strongly recommended by several Governors and had attended and was examined by the Committee who thought her properly qualified for the Office.”

The Duchess of Cumberland was born Lady Anne Luttrell in 1742, the daughter of Simon Luttrell, 1st Earl of Carhampton and Judith Maria Lawes. She had married Christopher Horton (sometimes Houghton) of Catton Hall, Derbyshire when still very young. According to The Lotus Magazine Vol. 3, No. 6 (Mar., 1912) , pp. 186-188, 162  http://www.jstor.org/stable/20543368, her infant daughter and husband died within a fortnight of each other, leaving Anne a widow aged 24 “with bewitching eyes, which, when she pleased, she could animate to enchantment” (Horace Walpole, cited by Glenn Luttrell http://www.theluttrells.com/LadyAnneLuttrell)

Lady Anne Luttrell
Lady Anne Luttrell http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/images/paintings/

“Mrs. Horton met the Duke, it is said, at a boarding-house, whither he had gone until the scandal of one of his numerous love affairs had blown over. He was no match for the beautiful widow, whose dancing of the minuet completely carried his slight defences, and, finding she was impervious to any proposal save orthodox marriage, he followed her to Calais, where the knot was tied hard and fast, all legal forms being duly executed, and no loophole left through which the royal captive could wriggle.” http://www.theluttrells.com. The Lotus Magazine adds that she met the Duke in Brighton and they were married in Calais in Nov 1771.

George III was furious! “The marriage of prince and commoner caused discord in the royal household and was a direct cause of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 which forbade any descendant of George II to marry without the monarch’s permission. The king was furious that his brother had chosen to marry into a family that had a hint of scandal about it, let alone the social standing of bride versus groom.” Catherine Curzon writing on http://www.madamegilflurt.com “Following a continental tour, Anne and her husband established a salon at Cumberland House that became the talk of the town, with Anne exuding charm to all who came into her circle.” The King and court circles snubbed her but could not take away her title. Cumberland House became an unofficial court “until Cumberland’s ill-health forced them to quit London for Brighton in 1779.” From there they set off for the continent, only returning to England in 1786. The Duke died in 1790. The Duchess stayed in England but “Eventually, she left England for the continent, where she died at Gorizia on 28 December 1808.” (Catherine Curzon)

3 images of the Duchess all by Gainsborough (the first also includes Hon Elizabeth Luttrell who supported Mrs Miller’s candidature)

In the School’s annals, the Duchess of Cumberland is referred to as a woman who was difficult to deal with. How much of this is drawn from the way she was treated by others is a moot point. Quite possibly, her ringing endorsement of Mrs Miller – and the clear expectation on the Duchess’ part that this would be sufficient to secure Mrs Miller her desired post – was viewed with sinking hearts by the Committee. They went to great lengths to record the ballot for the matron’s post so that it could be seen that all was done in a fair and above-board manner.

matron ballot
Ballot for the first matron’s post, from the Rough Minute Book

As might be seen from the counting system recorded alongside the names of those voting, Mrs Miller was close –

but not close enough!


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