A PIONEERING LADY MOTORIST

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Women have taken driving a car for granted for many years but it is easy to forget that in the early days of motoring in Great Britain it was regarded as a hazardous undertaking, not suitable for a woman.  As with having the right to vote and other male preserves.
The background to this story is that Louis Bazalgette had two elder sons, Joseph William (who sired my branch of the family) and John.  Most of John’s sons entered the army, the exception being George, who joined the Royal Marines Light Infantry.  There is a lot about George at this website http://www.royalengineers.ca/Bazalgette.html though there are some inaccuracies to be found there.   George is best known for commanding the British garrison on San Juan Island during its rather friendly dual occupation known as The Pig War.
In June 1870 George married Louise Seville, a lady 16 years his junior.  George died in 1885 and Louise outlived him by 23 years.  She must have been very fond of old George, though, because before her death, finding his burial plot too small for both of them, she had him dug up and moved to a larger plot, in which she finally joined him in 1918.
As a widow she may have found time on her hands, and her interest turned to the new sport of ‘automobilism’.  She was enough of a novelty that there were frequent articles in motoring magazines starting in 1899 about her intrepid journeys from London to far-flung places such as Essex.  She was also one of the few female entrants to the Automobile Club’s 1,000 Mile Trial in 1900.
An article in The Motor-Car Journal in September 1899 describes one such journey.

“LADIES AND MOTORING
Mrs. Bazalgette, with a lady friend, has just concluded a pleasant trip on her Benz motor-car through Essex.  They were accompanied by a lad to clean and look after the car; but the outing fully demonstrated the capacity of ladies to go a-motoring and thoroughly enjoy it.  Leaving her house in Portman Square one day half an hour after noon Mrs. Bazalgette reached Chelmsford at 6.30 p.m., via Hatfield, through mile after mile of lovely lanes, and crossing two small rivers ere they reached Bishop Stortford on the way to their destination.  The only hindrances were the great harvest wagons that occupied most of the narrow lanes and necessitated stoppages here and there.  Among the other trips recently enjoyed by this expert lady-motorist have been runs to Henley, to Brighton, and to Oxford.  Most probably she will motor to Dover next week. These trips cannot fail to do much to popularise automobilism among the fair sex, who are being rapidly won to the seat of the motor car.”

An article in Louise’s own words, presumably transcribed from an address she delivered to the Automobile  Club, was reported in the Motor Car Journal in November 1899.

“Having been asked to speak at this meeting I do so in the hope that our gathering will lead to the formation of an Automobile Club the membership of which will be open to ladies as well as gentlemen, where ideas can be exchanged – ideas which may be a source of benefit and information concerning the use of motor-cars to all those interested in the new pastime.  I use the word “pastime” advisedly, in preference to “industry,” as I myself have little experience of automobilism except as a pleasure-giving pursuit.  The time surely has passed for gentlemen to object to ladies participating in their sports.  As I have owned and driven a Benz car for some three months, I have been especially asked to speak about lady motorists, and I think I can give the results of my practical experience, and present details that may be useful and interesting to those ladies and – may I dare say ? – gentlemen who want to know something of the subject.   My experiences may not be considered to be wide, for I have only driven a Benz Ideal and a Victoria, yet there are many gentlemen as well as ladies who have not progressed so far, and it is to them more especially that I address myself.  Before one can enjoy motoring as a pastime, one must have one’s own carriage, and I should recommend the purchase of a small, nexpensive
car of a good make.  Any well-built carriage will do for the first performance of an amateur,  even although its speed may be low, for it is generally undesirable to learn to drive on a vehicle constructed for great pace.  I have studied automobiles of almost every description for some
three or four years, so I have something to say concerning them.  I have travelled a great deal on my own car, and enjoyed more of the country than I at one time thought possible.  I generally do some-ten to fourteen miles per hour, visiting such places as Southsea, Brighton, Southampton,
Bedford and Norwich, and I have run swiftly on the high roads and wandered through the lanes of Kent, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Essex.  It is possible to drive a car with very little knowledge of machinery, if you have a skilled mechanic with you to help in case of a breakdown; but the lady motorist is in a much more happy frame of mind during her travels if she herself possesses knowledge of the mechanism of her automobile.  It is so much more enjoyable to really study and understand everything concerning the car you take an interest in.  You must not imagine that it is possible for any lady to acquire sufficient knowledge of the working parts of the driving machinery in a few days, or even months, but they should have the opportunity of studying it.  This is one of the main objects of the club we hope to form.
Many things may happen en route that may tax even the ingenuity of the expert, for some slight adjustment may be necessary, and the trouble must be diagnosed before the operation can be performed.  The lady motorist should at least know something about “short-circuiting.” ” back-shot,” “compression ” – as the doctor knows of a defective nervous system.  She should be able to detect whether the bearings are becoming heated, or the belt is slipping, for if it does it will have to be shortened, and the process of shortening is, to my mind, not beyond the powers of a woman.  Why the pastime of motoring is so interesting is that there is always something to be learned concerning the mechanism of the car.  Some experts maintain that no lady cares to start the driving wheel.  Why not?  The operation is perfectly easy—it requires skill rather than strength.  Indeed, the machinery of a motor is so delicate in its construction that very little force is necessary.  There is no sledge-hammer work.   The blacksmith might be able to do repairs under the direction of an expert engineer, but for my part I would prefer to leave my car in its damaged condition rather than trust it in the hands of the giant of the smithy.  I have driven my car some 2,000 miles, and have been most fortunate in not having experienced any mishap.   Yet the sceptics tell us of the dangers of the automobile!  But accidents may happen to the most expert and careful driver, for there is still much jealousy and prejudice to overcome.  These, however are only temporary, for the day will come when England will follow the lead of other countries, and horseless vehicles will be seen here, there, and everywhere – and probably nothing else!  Apart from the pleasure of motoring, some little consideration should be given to the profitable utilisation of the motor-vehicle.  If ladies are engaged in agricultural and horticultural pursuits, and find pleasant occupation in gardening, dairy-work, fruit culture, etc., why should they not with even greater dignity drive their produce to the markets?   Metropolitan dwellers revel in the delicious produce of the country, and if the motor-vehicle cheapens the transit of heavy loads, without the cost of reloading, the lady motorist can with hope look forward to the good times that are to come – and come they surely will – when ladies once discover how much enjoyment they can obtain from driving a motor-car.  That a great impulse will shortly be given to automobilism no one doubts;  but, like the boom in connection with cycling, it will not come until ladies take up the pastime; and the new club, the formation of which we have met to suggest, will do much to attain this end.”

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WHENCE WILLOUGHBY?

 

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Nesbit Josiah Willoughby.

A name prevalent in the Bazalgette family is Willoughby. In fact it is one of my middle names. I received it in honour of my uncle, Ian Willoughby Bazalgette, RAF VC DFC. The first Bazalgette to bear the name was my great-great uncle, Willoughby Bazalgette (1857-1900) who was one of the sons of my great-great-grandfather Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (1819-1891) the civil engineer.

I have two quite separate theories on how the name entered the family. The first, and to my mind the most likely, is this: Sir Joseph’s father, also Joseph William, served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars. The colourful Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby, the ‘Hero of Mauritius’ also did so, with distinction (coupled with controversy). Naval records show that they never simultaneously served on the same ships, although they were both granted pensions on the same day – 2 December 1815 – and both at times served under Sir Josias Rowley. However, as the war progressed there were increasingly larger numbers of officers who fervently embraced Christianity, probably as a result of their war experiences. Their evangelism was sneered at by many and they were given the slightly derogatory name of ‘Blue Lights’. Prominent amongst them was Admiral James ‘Dismal Jimmy’ Gambier. Joseph William was an admirer of Gambier and they were members of the same benevolent societies. These were (amongst others) the Naval and Military Bible Society, of which Joseph was appointed an honorary secretary, the Sailors’ Home Society, the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society (of which Elizabeth Fry was a founder member), the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews, the Seaman’s Floating Church, the Royal Naval Female School and the Association for the Suppression of Duelling. Newspaper reports show that Admiral Willoughby and Joseph both attended a same meeting of this last society. So Joseph knew and esteemed, and was apparently esteemed by, many of the most senior naval officers of the time. Willoughby had also embraced evangelism and produced at his own expense a religious tract (Extracts from Holy Writ, and various authors, intended as helps to meditation and prayer: by Sir N.J. Willoughby).

So here we have Joseph and Willoughby sharing common beliefs and moving in the same circles. What is significant is that Joseph believed in honouring those he admired by naming his children after them. Joseph named his next son, born on the 7th April 1829, Henry Gambier Bazalgette, after Admiral Gambier. The child was christened at Marylebone Church on the 18th July. The boy died before he was two, and was buried in Paddington Church Cemetery on January 25th, 1830. Joseph had no further surviving sons but it is quite likely that he wanted to honour Willoughby in the same way. Perhaps it was his dying wish that his son Joseph would name one of his sons after the great man. That is one theory.

The other is a possible family connection between my family and the Willoughbys. I remember my grandmother saying that is was an Irish name – it is not, since they are a Nottinghamshire family, but the supposed relationship comes from the line of my great-great-grandmother Maria Kough, wife of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who was herself Irish. Her line can be traced back to Goff and Whalley, two of the ‘regicides’ responsible for the signing of Charles I’s death warrant, who were cousins of Oliver Cromwell. Henry Whalley is supposed to have married in c.1439 Dorothy, the daughter of Sir Hugh Willoughby and his second wife Margaret Freville. Another source, which looks more reliable, says that Dorothy married Thomas Thurland.  The Visitations of the County of Nottingham do however show a family connection between the Lords of Willoughby and the Whalley family.

Whether my great great grandmother Maria was aware of possible Willoughby ancestors is not clear but it seems a little tenuous to suppose that she named one of her sons Willoughby on that basis. Of course it may have been on a whim – who knows?

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THE CHINESE DAGGER

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[Wikimedia]

I can’t remember where I got this story, but families are like that.  There can be a thread of consciousness or myth which gets handed down, almost floating through the ether I suppose.  One of these stories is that my gggggfr Louis Bazalgette travelled to America  with Lafayette, fought at the battle of Brandywine, established a string of fur-trading posts, married the daughter of a fur merchant in New York and then moved to London.  Oh yes, and he found the time to be a privateer as well.   I have made it very clear in my book that this is impossible, but there are still members of my family who believe this story.

Another story – and this is the one I am focusing on here – was that ‘someone’ was viewing the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle and came across a sword which had been presented to the king by a Mr. Bazalgette ‘to a great traveller from a great traveller’.  I have been pursuing this story for over twenty years, though not full-time I hasten to add.  I asked the Royal Archives some years ago but they said they could find nothing about it.

The British Newspaper Archive has been turning up some little gems recently in response to my searches.  Imagine my surprise to find this snippet in the Nottingham Evening Post for Wednesday 11 July 1900:
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QUEEN’ S CHINESE RELICS.
Her Majesty has at Windsor a small collection of curios, reminiscent of former Chinese wars. There a suit of Chinese armour, comprising cuirass of lacquered steel, a half-mask with gilt teeth, and metal coverings for the arms with gilt ornaments. There is also ancient knife, the ivory handle of which is carved into the figure of a Chinaman, and a one-edged dagger, with an engraved wooden scabbard. Greater immediate interest attaches to a similar dagger of damascened steel, with the horn handle weighted with lead. This was  wrested from a Chinaman in a murderous struggle by Mr. Bazalgette, who presented it to George III in 1807. There is a group comprising javelin, a matchsocket, a specimen of a matchlock with tripod gun, a campanular wall piece, archaic iron cannon, and a brass rocket-tube, all of which were taken from the Chinese at Szkee in 1842.
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The obvious family member who qualifies is Louis’ grandson George, who was a Royal Marine and commanded the British garrison during the Pig War.  The problem with George is that he wasn’t born until 1829 and didn’t serve in the Chinese wars until 1857.

Could the ‘murderous’ Chinaman have been in England and the struggler have been Louis the tailor?  He is the only member of the family who would have been sufficiently adult at the time.  And unless George III was somehow involved why would the dagger have been presented to him?  Why do we have no more information about this murderous struggle?

This looks like a job for Lucy Worsley!

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OCTOBER 1802 – LOUIS GOES TO PARIS AND MEETS NAPOLEON

On 25 March 1802, the Treaty of Amiens was signed, and peace, which was to last for under a year, returned to Britain and France.  Although the politically sage saw the ‘peace’ for what it was – a ploy by Napoleon to remove the blockade on the French ports to allow the re-provisioning of his army – the British Haut Ton lost no time in returning to their beloved Paris in their thousands.

“The Dover and Calais mail packets did not recommence running till the 18th November 1801, but English visitors had begun to arrive as early as September or October.  One of the earliest packets brought sixty-three ladies, and the Calais hotels were packed, seven hundred and ninety-eight passengers landing in ten days. In the last decade of Prairial (June 1802) there were ninety-one arrivals, in the last decade of Thermidor (August) ninety-seven, in the last decade of Fructidor (September) one hundred and fifty-six.   The cost of a trip to Paris was what in those days seemed moderate.  For £4/13s you could get a through ticket by Dover and Calais, starting either from the City at 4.30 a.m. by the old and now revived line of coaches connected with the rue Notre Dame des Victoires establishment in Paris, or morning and night by a new line from Charing Cross.  Probably a still cheaper route, though there were no through tickets, was by Brighton and Dieppe, the crossing taking ten or fifteen hours. By Calais it seldom took more than eight hours, but passengers were advised to carry light refreshments with them. The diligence from Calais to Paris, going only four miles an hour, took 54 hours for the journey, but a handsome carriage drawn by three horses, in a style somewhat similar to the English post-chaise, could be hired by four or five fellow-travellers, and this made six miles an hour.  £30 would cover the expense of a seven weeks’ visit, including hotels, sight-seeing, and restaurants.”  [Alger, John Goldsworth: Napoleon’s British Visitors and Captives, 1801-1815]

Louis was no exception in wishing to return to Paris, though his reasons were more prosaic, as he took the opportunity to sort out his business affairs.  These obviously required his attention, because they had been handled by a representative, with a power of attorney, and this arrangement was by now not all it should be.  Louis, perhaps accompanied by Frances, stayed at the Hotel d’Irlande, Rue de la Loi, a very fashionable street which was renamed the Rue de Richelieu in 1806.  On 15 October 1802 he appeared before the Notary Public in the Département de la Seine and gave his London address as 41, Dover Street, Piccadilly.  He summoned Citizen Barison to give account of his holdings and dealings, as Barison had been acting as his proxy or agent and was in default.  Barison had been summoned to attend at the same hour of 9 a.m., but as he did not show up by noon, judgement was given against him.

Louis then found a replacement agent, for a fortnight later, on 3 November, Louis again appeared before the Notary and this time granted his power of attorney to Joseph Guillon, of 263 Rue Montmartre.  This suggests that Louis had kept a representative in Paris throughout the 15 years of war, and that some form of trade, presumably in silks, other cloth and shapes, was carried on during this period.  The fact that he continued this arrangement implies that he was still importing materials in 1802, even if his tailoring activities had diminished.  To allow judgement to be completed, the magistrate requested confirmation from the mayor of Ispagnac that Citizen Louis Bazalgette was the same Jean Louis Bazalgette who had been born in Ispagnac in 1750.  In confirmation, a copy of Louis’ Acte de Naissance was received by the court on 20 March 1803.

According to the book from which the above quote was taken, Louis was on the list of visitors who had an audience with Napoleon.  Many of the more important British visitors did so, and although Louis was by this time a British subject there was potentially a risk that he could have been regarded as an emigré and interned, or worse.  No doubt his passport and other documents stated his importance to the Prince of Wales.  Passports at the time had to be issued by the French government or ambassador.

It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall at that audience and to know what they talked about, unless it was just a paying of respects.  Since he was a royalist it seems unlikely that he would have chosen to visit the Emperor on his own account.

Louis returned to London a little after the beginning of November, 1802.

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PRINNY AND FREEMASONRY

16 January 1789 is the first date in Louis’ accounts that mentions freemasonry.  Firstly: ‘altering a Masons uniform coat, making new cuffs & coller & edging to do.’  The coat was blue, the cuffs and collar were rose-coloured and the edging buff.  The same day a new Mason’s uniform was also supplied, including ‘26 gilt engraved B. L. buttons for the Masons coat above at 31/6 a dozen’.  The next day brought further alterations: ‘Taking the velvet cuffs & coller off a Masons uniform & putting other ones on do’.  In fact, George had been introduced to the craft at a special meeting of the Britannia Lodge at the Star and Garter Tavern in Pall Mall on 6 February 1787, by the Grand Master, who was his uncle the Duke of Cumberland.  Although in the same year he established his own ‘Prince of Wales’ Lodge, he presumably retained an affiliation with the Britannia Lodge, of which the above must have been the uniform, because it had the ‘B. L.’ buttons.  The Prince’s own lodge, which received its warrant on 20 August 1787, still exists, but initially the members were a mixture of his friends and household such his dentist Chevalier Ruspini (whose idea it was to form this lodge) and his chief cook Louis Weltje. Other founder members were the architect Henry Holland, the banker Thomas Hammersley, William Addington (3rd Viscount Sidmouth, later prime minister) and Arthur Robinson, a gentleman usher and ‘accomptant’ in the Prince’s household.  Louis did not become a member of this lodge.   On the Duke of Cumberland’s death in 1790, the Prince became Grand Master on 24 November.  When George became King, the Duke of Sussex became Grand Master and the King was made Patron.  No further mentions of Mason’s uniforms appear in the accounts.

It is said that George mostly enjoyed the social side of freemasonry.

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PUT TO THE NEEDLE

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Thomas Sheppard, one of the apprentices in Bazalgette’s tailoring shop, has been informed by one of the masters, Mr. Smith, that tomorrow, after his chores have been completed, he will be put to the needle.  Thomas is pleased at this news, because he has been champing at the bit for some months to be allowed to begin to learn his trade.  He does not sleep too well because he is too keyed-up to settle, so is happy when next morning at half past four he can rise, perform some perfunctory ablutions and hurry off at a gangly pace on the twenty-minute walk to Brooks Mews.  That morning he cheerily performs his chores in record time and is then told by Mr Smith that he may go and join the workmen.
Thomas’s entry into the sewing room, with its long table and large east-facing windows, is greeted with a variety of remarks, loudest of which is: “Here’s the squeaker!  Come aboard, my lad!” which comes from a muscular fellow who extends a rope-calloused palm to help Thomas on to the table. This is Horace, nicknamed Horatio, a name he bears with pride.  Horace was once impressed into the navy, and had to serve two years before managing to absent himself from his ship and return to tailoring.  His language is consequently well-salted with nauticisms.  As the tailors are making room for him he sees a hand flapping at the other end of the board – he is being beckoned by a serious, even studious-looking young man, and uncertain whether by protocol he should stand or not, he crawls over to him.  The man introduces himself as Pierre, though his nickname is Pete, a name he bears with resignation.  Thomas will find later that this clouded face can very occasionally and suddenly break into a sunny smile, showing for a moment the true beauty in his heart.
Pierre tells him that before starting to sew he must learn to sit properly.  
“The cross-legged position is the only way that you can work, both in sewing and pressing.  You will find it painful to sit this way for long, but you must persist or you will never find your way past this obstacle.  You will get used to it in time and it will feel very natural.  When the pain in your thighs or back becomes too much to bear you may change your position a little to get some relief for a while, but you must return to the correct position as soon as you can bear it.  As you become tired, resist the tendency to slouch.  You must keep your back straight, otherwise you will have trouble with your neck.  Here are two small cushions which you must place under your ankle-joints.  If you do not use them your joints could become very sore and swollen.  I repeat that you must not give up – otherwise you will have fallen at the first fence, as it were, and will never become a tailor.”
“I just couldn’t stand it, myself,” whispers the man sitting next to him, “so I kept shifting about and never got settled.  It wasn’t in this shop, but they forced me to sit right by putting a sleeve-board across my knees with a twenty-pound goose-iron on each end.  It hurt like the divil I can tell you!  After half-an-hour of this I begged to be released, and promised to do better.  It was a hard lesson, but I finally made it.  Nothing I did could hurt as much as that sleeve-board!”
Pierre touches Thomas on the shoulder and asks if he feels comfortable.  
“Not bad – I think I must be quite loose-jointed.”  He can see how the position could be much more of an ordeal for a short, stocky man.
“In that case, Thomas, we will try some stitching.  I am pleased to hear that you have shown interest already by watching, and asking some of the tailors what stitches they were making.  Here are two pieces of calico.  First, please baste them together.  I expect you know how to do that, but make the seam as straight as you can.  That is fine.  Now let us try the back-stitch.  Make the stitches as even as you can and do not let them get longer as you go.  The most important point to note is that your seam must follow the line, otherwise the seams will pucker or the clothes will not fit.”
Thomas spends the next two hours practicing some basic stitches until his legs are very stiff and his buttocks have long ago gone to sleep.  He is then allowed down from the board, and has to spend some time trying to get his legs to walk.  He hopes tomorrow will be a little better.

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Louis Bazalgette’s Coffin Plate

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Louis was buried in the crypt of Marylebone Church.  In the 1980’s the crypt was cleared to make way for a healing centre and all of the remains were removed and re-interred in a mass grave at Brookwood Cemetery.  The coffin plate shown above (I must find out how to merge the two pictures into one) was collected and put into the keeping of the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at Reading University.  The hand engraving of these plates was of superb quality and was therefore of considerable interest to them.  

On 5 December 1996, we went to Reading University and met with Bryony Newhouse, who had written a dissertation on the plates, and her Head of Department, Michael Twyman.  They presented us with the Bazalgette coffin plates.  There were ten plates altogether: four brass plates from the coffins of Louis, his wife Frances and two of their children, Augustus and Caroline, two medium-sized lead breast plates (for Frances and Caroline) and four small blacked lead foot-plates, which had been attached to the outer coffins. 

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