Last weekend I had company – one of my Age of Sail friends was visiting Edinburgh, and we went to the Georgian House, which is another of these things I’ve somehow never got round to doing.
I do seem to have been on a bit of a New Town kick lately, and this is the heart of it – one of the places they lit up when they did the Georgian Shadows show, in fact.
I didn’t get round to taking many photos, and my camera was playing up a bit, but I did manage a few.
The parlour was the sitting quietly room, with the comfortable chairs and the bookcase, but my favourite thing was the barrel organ – which when you look inside is exactly like the turn-the-handle music boxes you get today, only on a larger scale.
And it knew how to play the Fairy Dance, along with a handful of other tunes which are still familiar today.
The drawing room, also on the first floor, was the party room – big and empty enough for dancing.
You started at the top of the house and worked down, and we found it a bit odd that the sitting rooms were upstairs and the main bedroom downstairs!
It made sense to have the dining room on the ground floor, though, because downstairs again was the kitchen, so it meant that the food didn’t have so far to come. I was impressed by their array of pots and pans, and especially by the jelly moulds.
Also down here was the well stocked wine cellar.
And then we wandered off to drink tea and talk about George Heneage Dundas and Christy-Pallière and other mutual friends, which was nice!
Apart from regularly falling over Captain Cook along the Cleveland Way, I took a day off in the middle to walk the coast from Redcar to Saltburn and so catch up with myself before heading south from Saltburn (I’ve walked the coast south from the Tyne in order, although erratically over several years!), and to visit a couple of places connected with George Heneage Dundas – the model, at least initially, for Jack Aubrey’s friend.
I knew that he was buried at Marske, in the graveyard of the old church, St Germain’s, by the sea. This was rebuilt in 1821, and mostly demolished in the early 20th century, but the remaining tower may be much older, as it clearly shows the marks of two different roof lines.
I also knew from hunting online that he was included on a Dundas family gravestone (or a Zetland family gravestone, but he died before his brother became the Earl of Zetland rather than Lord Dundas), and that it was one of the biggest in the graveyard – but despite this it took quite a bit of searching to find it, as I hadn’t realised it was a flat stone.
The relevant part of the inscription reads:
Admiral George Heneage Lawrence Dundas
Died Octr 16th 1834 Aged 55
There are two mistakes in that – he died on 6th October, or possibly the 7th, as it was around midnight, and as he was born in September 1778 he had turned 56 a few weeks before he died – but it’s very much a family stone, and as it’s clear that all the lettering was done at the same time, it must have been after the last death recorded there, that of his nephew more than 40 years later.
The new church in the town, St Mark’s, built in 1867, contains several Dundas family funeral hatchments, moved there from the old church.
The first two are for Harriet, Lady Dundas – GHD’s sister in law – and his brother Lawrence, 1st Earl of Zetland.
The next two are for Thomas, 2nd Earl of Zetland – GHD’s nephew, who he was staying with at the time of his own death – and his wife Sophia.
Next door to the new church is Marske Hall, now a nursing home, but then a Dundas family possession, although their main home was at Aske.
The next morning I made a detour to visit Upleatham, where GHD was living when he died (if that makes sense). His obituary describes Upleatham Hall as the home of his nephew, but his Houses of Parliament record lists it as his home, and it makes sense that someone who wasn’t married and probably lived mostly in London had a base in a family house, rather than setting up a house of his own.
It’s a lovely setting – beautiful, but not so tame that it couldn’t be Scotland (and although the family were firmly settled in England by this stage it doesn’t ever seem to have occurred to them to move out of the north) – and from the road to the church Roseberry Topping is in view.
The village has a famously small church, but this is really only the remains of a much bigger building, left behind in the graveyard as a mortuary chapel when the church moved into the village.
Upleatham Hall was demolished in the late 19th century due to subsidence from mining, and a much smaller building stands in the grounds now, although it does include a carving which looks like it might have come from an earlier building.
It’s not all that easy at first to map the location of the old hall onto the current map – there’s also nothing remaining of the old Home Farm, and the new Home Farm is in part of the grounds of the old hall, which confused me. But it can be done, helped by the fact that the field boundaries haven’t changed much – and the site of the hall then turns out to be marked as earthworks on the current map.
The wellhouse marked on the old map is still standing, at the corner of the current roads.
These gateposts, near the start of the track continuing past the new hall, also look like part of the older building.
Following the path round, I took a slightly trespassy detour into the corner of the field, where I could look into the woods at the original site of the house.
(I was a bit amused that I’d been unwilling to walk through a field of cows to follow the coast path the day before, but had walked through one now to look at a house that wasn’t there where a fictional character had died. I’m mad, but it’s a fairly harmless variety.)
Two more family relics turned up along my walk – this is the old Redcar lifeboat Zetland, built in 1802 and the oldest surviving lifeboat in the world – and obviously named after the Dundas family, although they didn’t become Earls of Zetland until 1839.
And although there are Dundas Streets all over Scotland – far too many to count – they’re all named after Lord Melville. This was the first one I’d ever seen which was definitely named for the other Dundas family.
After working around the moors from Helmsley to Kildale, Cook started to come into the story on the fourth day, with Great Ayton in view down below for part of the day, and then his monument on Easby Moor ahead.
The start of the fourth day found me climbing up to the monument itself – an impressive marker on the hillside.
The monument was erected in 1827, and has a plaque praising Cook’s abilities.
(It’s odd to think that this was before Middlesbrough existed – the monument isn’t in the middle of nowhere, as it seems now, it’s overlooking the biggest town connected with his boyhood.)
After a day around Redcar and Marske on the trail of the Dundas family, it was day 6 when I next came across Cook, in Staithes where he spent 18 months working for a merchant before moving to Whitby to train as a seaman. It’s a very picturesque little harbour, piled into a gap between the cliffs.
The shop where he worked has been destroyed by the sea (a common story along this coast), but parts of it were used to build the house called Captain Cook’s cottage. There’s also a museum here, but I was too late to visit it.
The next day I was in Whitby, where Cook served his apprenticeship as a seaman and then worked for several years on Whitby-based ships, working his way up to master before joining the navy at the start of the Seven Years War.
A statue to Cook stands on the west cliff – as well as the inscriptions describing it, there are plaques presented by several of the countries which Cook helped to explore.
I especially liked this ship:
Down at the quayside, the replica of Endeavour was just returning from one trip and ready to set out for another – which I couldn’t resist. The ship is built on roughly 40% of the scale of the original, but that still doesn’t feel like the original would have been very big!
Over on the other, older, side of the harbour is the house where Cook lodged as an apprentice, now the Captain Cook museum. From the street it’s a nice building, marked with the initials of its original owners, Moses and Susannah Dring, although in Cook’s time it belonged to John Walker.
The house is built in an L shape around a courtyard behind – the attic of the main building is where the apprentices would have slept.
At the other end, the courtyard runs down to the harbour – and would have been lower in Cook’s day, running down to a slipway.
The museum itself is interesting but not always very clear – they have several exhibits which they’re rightfully proud of, but don’t put much effort into telling the overarching story which these things fit into (what happened on each of the three voyages, for example). My vague memories of the museum at Marton did help a bit!
This past weekend was the end of a light show celebrating the 250th anniversary of Edinburgh’s New Town – called ‘Georgian Shadows’, although it was really mostly the opposite of shadows, with people made out of light projected onto the buildings.
On Saturday night I managed to look around the buildings near St Andrew’s Square, after getting back quite late from the Borders.
General Register House was decorated with words from the original New Town proposals.
Dundas House had a light show which picked out different elements of its architecture.
The Melville Monument was telling the story of the plans, moving from the old town to the new.
By Sunday night the clocks had changed and there wasn’t much darkness – instead it was that deep blue twilight which is the real shadow time.
The Georgian House in Charlotte Square had the only real shadows, setting the table for dinner.
The link boy, carrying his torch, was the element which ran through all the different light shows – he turned up at some point on every building.
At the Assembly Rooms a queue of ladies and gentlemen were waiting to get in.
And St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church – the oldest in the New Town, opened as St Andrew’s in 1784 – was showing portraits of some of the early inhabitants – here two sedan chairmen wait for a customer.
Two Dundas families are represented in St Andrew’s Square, with Dundas House on the east side – now the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland – having been built for Sir Lawrence Dundas, a distant cousin and a rival of Lord Melville.
Sir Lawrence Dundas was not directly involved in the navy, but the family was still heavily involved in seafaring (as most influential families of the tme must have been) – Sir Lawrence invested in East India company ships and had Dundas relatives appointed to them, while his son was involved in the building and trials of the early paddle steamer Charlotte Dundas (named after his daughter), and his son was the naval officer George Heneage Dundas (of Master and Commander fame), who became First Naval Lord later in his life.
Dundas House is built on the side of St Andrew’s Square, looking right down George Street along the centre of the New Town, and stands on the spot from which the New Town was measured and laid out – a plaque on the floor of the bank commemorates this.
This site was originally intended for a church – the counterpart of St George’s in Charlotte Square, now West Register House – but Sir Lawrence apparently decided that it was too good a spot to give up, and had his house built there before the plans for the church could be agreed and the land acquired.
Whatever the issues with its construction, it is a beautifully decorated building
I have been misled by the Melville monument in St Andrews Square. Any time I’ve remembered to go and look at it it’s been in December, and it’s always been covered up by the ice rink’s bar – and so I assumed that there was an inscription on one of the bottom panels where I couldn’t see it. But no – all the panels are blank, and the only plaque on it celebrates Robert Stevenson’s part in its building.
It’s a very towering monument, but I got a good view of the statue from the Scott monument when I climbed that a few weeks ago – I’d never expected to see him on the level!
Lord Melville is one of those people who did a great deal for the navy without ever really being part of it – he was Secretary of State for War and later First Lord of the Admiralty, and as the latter managed to greatly increase the number of ships at sea by arranging for repairs rather than complete refits – indirectly contributing to the victory at Trafalgar – and the monument was paid for by members of the navy.
He’s also an occasional character in the Master and Commander series, as First Lord and as the father of Jack’s friend Heneage Dundas (which he wasn’t, but that’s a story for another day).
But he was a controversial figure in many ways, and was also the last person to be impeached for misappropriation of public funds in Britain – although he was eventually found guilty only of negligence.
Last week included the second Collingwood Society meeting of the year – and the first that I’ve actually made, because I missed the January talk.
This talk went back specifically to Collingwood for the first time in a while – we’ve been having a lovely time exploring the naval history of the North-East, and the Age of Sail in general – with Max Adams, who wrote the best of the Collingwood biographies, coming to talk about new insights from – or into – Collingwood’s correspondence.
He began by talking about Collingwood’s letters as literature, rather than as historical evidence – as great letters from a great age of letter writing – and his frustrations I’m trying to get other people to recognise this, and read us out a full letter to demonstrate the way that his letters were carefully structured.
He also read out a letter from Collingwood to the Corporation of Newcastle, thanking them for a letter which he had been told they had sent after Trafalgar – except that apparently they had never written him a letter at all, and this reply was only to point out to them how they should have behaved!
More specifically, he had been looking at letters between Collingwood and the Duke of Northumberland (nominally over problems with access to the coal mine at Chirton), both as evidence of the social relationship and discussions between two men from very different backgrounds, and as evidence of how letters were travelling to and from the Med – the letters themselves are dated, of course, but then you get comments in the replies about ‘your letter which I received last week’, or can tell that from the content that a second letter hadn’t yet arrived although it had been sent.
The last part of the talk was not about the letters, but about a source that Max wished he had read before he wrote his book, and which one of his students had pointed out to him later – a book called ‘Servitude et grandeur militaires’ (most recently translated as ‘The Warrior’s Life’) by a man called Alfred de Vigny, looking at military life in peace time, after the great events of the Napoleonic wars, which is interesting as containing a description of Collingwood by an enemy.
The book contains a story told to the narrator by a man called Renaud, who shows him a letter from his father written from captivity in England, where he had been taken on board Collingwood’s ship, and who was later himself held as a prisoner on another ship of Collingwood’s (presumably Culloden, although the book says Victory – there are various muddles of names and times).
This was where the title of the talk came from – that Renaud was depressed by being kept as a prisoner, cut off from his own land and his own people, and that Collingwood pointed out to him one night that he was just as much a prisoner of the sea, cut off from his home and family.
It was presented to us as a factual account, and well, it might be – but it does all sound a bit too good to be true, and when you look up the book it turns out to have been written a few years after Collingwood’s letters – which quite often talk about his family in that way – and that it is generally seen as short stories containing autobiographical (and presumably biographical) elements.
So I have mixed feelings about this – it was an interesting talk, and included some good stories, but I do wish that I was a bit more sure that they were more than that – I would be interested to know, for example, whether there is evidence that no letter was sent by the Newcastle Corporation, or only no evidence that one was sent, and whether there is any other evidence for the existence of this French boy (who would presumably have been borne for victuals!)
(This isn’t exactly a throwback, because although I went to Culross years ago and took photos then, I’ve lost them, so all the photos are new. But never mind.)
Culross on the south coast of Fife is a wonderfully preserved place, with a jumble of old houses and little cobbled streets and an old market cross tucked into a tiny square, and a bright yellow palace which they swear is how it would have looked originally!
It’s not Thomas Cochrane’s birthplace – he was born over in the west somewhere – but it is where he grew up.
The main street now leads along the sea front, and it’s there that the main open square is, with the statue of Cochrane. The statue is fairly new – apparently it was put up because visitors from South America kept asking where his memorial was.
The inscription in front of it is impossible to get a good picture of – there’s no high point where you can stand – but it’s a slightly cut down version of the inscription on his gravestone in Westminster Abbey.
THOMAS COCHRANE G.C.B. ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET
Marquis of Maranham Brazil TENTH EARL OF DUNDONALD
BY THE CONFIDENCE WHICH HIS GENIUS HIS SCIENCE
AND HIS EXTRAORDINARY DARING INSPIRED
BY HIS HEROIC EXERTIONS IN THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM
HIS GREAT SERVICE ALIKE TO HIS OWN COUNTRY
TO GREECE TO BRAZIL AND PERU HE ACHIEVED
A NAME ILLUSTRIOUS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
FOR COURAGE PATRIOTISM AND CHIVALRY
Behind the sea front the old streets run steeeply up to the church on the hill, built in – and out of – the ruins of the original abbey.
The plaques in the porch recording gifts to the poor include one from Lady Mary Cochrane, who brought Culross into the Cochrane family (and who also has a dance – probably originally named for a tune, but if so the tune doesn’t seem to have survived.)
Cochrane’s childhood home was Culross Abbey House, on the hill in behind the church.
If I had realised this earlier I would have gone up to see if there was a view from the gate, but by the time I’d got down the hill I wasn’t going back up again.
You get a pretty good view from the shore, anyway – the house has been remodelled over the years, but has now been restored to something like the original state.
Down on the shore a little clump of houses is called Cochrane Haven – according to the plaque on them named specifically for the admiral, and not for the family as local landowners.
Surprisingly, although I tend to climb to the highest point of any city I visit – I’ve been up many towers and spires – I’ve lived in Edinburgh for about 30 years without ever climbing the Scott Monument. So since I’m on a monument kick at the moment it had to be time to do it.
The momument itself is Victorian, of course, but Scott himself was one of the most influential authors of late Georgian times. It’s definitely an impressive monument, although too elaboate Victorian for my tastes.
The monument is covered in little statues representing Scottish poets and characters from Scott’s novels.
In among the pillars at the bottom there is a statue of Scott and his dog Maida.
Climbing the monument was quite an adventure – there are several gallery levels where you come out, with a small museum on the first of them, and the stairs get narrower and narrower as you head to the top.
The views are worth it, though, in all directions – looking towards North Bridge and Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags, and the monuments on Calton Hill, up towards the Old Town and the castle with the Pentlands showing beyond, or looking out over the New Town (and Lord Melville’s monument) towards the sea.
I’ve been thinking about having the Fife Coastal Path as one of my goals for this year – I did start walking it a few years ago, but didn’t get very far. One thing that attracted me to the start, though, was that it began at Kincardine where Admiral Lord Keith had lived and where his grave is, and then passed through Culross, where Lord Cochrane was born.
Tulliallan Castle, at the top end of Kincardine, is now the headquarters of the Scottish police, but it was built between 1812 and 1820 for Lord Keith, near the site of an earlier castle.
The family mausoleum is a couple of miles away, in the middle of nowhere in an old graveyard which once surrounded a chapel which even at that date had long been replaced by the parish church in the town.
Sadly the mausoleum was badly damaged by fire, and Lady Keith’s tablet on the back wall is the only one still visible or legible.
It’s not the only interesting thing in the graveyard though – there are some very nice older gravestones around.