Sunday, 4 September 2016

From Loughborough to Melbourne and back again via ...

So, I'm not normally one for watching much television, but having recently done a course called "Investigating the Victorians" which started with an introduction to Queen Victoria, I was excited to learn that the life of this long-serving queen was being shown on television, and settled down to watch it last night, instead of writing my usual blog post!

The programme didn't disappoint, and reinforced much of what I'd learned on the course. Coincidentally, only three days before, the youngest child and I had visited nearby Melbourne Hall, in Southern Derbyshire, near Donington Park. Melbourne has been a haunt of ours for very many years, initially a place of tranquillity, then, when the children were young, a place for feeding the ducks, and now a place to start a 12-mile walk!! We've been around the hall a number of times, but this time we were taken around by the Curator, and told some wonderful stories about some of the owners and some of the artefacts. I had learned about William Lamb's role as Prime Minister in my course, so it was great to hear about Lord Melbourne from the Curator, who naturally has access to personal documents that reveal much about him. 

I must admit, I decided to change my t-shirt before we went, for fear of being a bit controversial:

And I'm glad I did for it was Lord Melbourne, when he was Home Secretary in about 1830, who was instrumental in the group of men known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs being transported to Sydney, Australia as punishment for their "crime". Later, in 1835, an area of New South Wales was named Melbourne, after William Lamb, and was declared a city by Queen Victoria in 1847, before becoming the capital of the newly founded colony of Victoria.

So, back in the Derbyshire home of Lord Melbourne, we could of course get back to Loughborough via Leicester, on what is popularly believed to be the first package tour - Leicester to Loughborough - on a train with Thomas Cook. This Thomas Cook (1808-1892) was born in Melbourne, and shouldn't be confused with Thomas Coke (1674-1727) who was the owner of Melbourne Hall, and responsible for the beautiful gardens and the re-modelling of the house. Thomas Coke was a politician and courtier, and sat in the House of Commons. 
Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire
Or, from Melbourne we could return to Loughborough via Dishley. As the crowning glory of the gardens, Thomas Coke commissioned Robert Bakewell (1682-1752) of Uttoxeter to make an arbour-like structure from wrought iron. Today this is known as the "birdcage" and has a direct and beautiful view towards the house. Bakewell went on to produce much ironwork of note, which can still be seen today (for example in Derby Cathedral and Staunton Harold church). Of course, Robert Bakewell, ironsmith, is not to be confused with Robert Bakewell (1725-1795), who was an agriculturist involved in the development of animal husbandry at Dishley!
View from the birdcage

Plaque commemorating the work of Robert Bakewell, ironsmith

Iron railings at Melbourne Hall, by Robert Bakewell 

A view of the birdcage from the Melbourne Hall
The home of Robert Bakewell, livestock breeder, Dishley

Commemorative plaque to Robert Bakewell, livestock breeder
But, let's not go that way, let's go via a slightly more circuitous route! Through William Lamb's wife, Caroline Ponsonby, to Lord Byron and Newstead. I hadn't been to Newstead Abbey for a few years, but last weekend I went along to the food festival. Newstead Abbey was the family seat of the poet, Lord Byron, although he didn't live there for very long, and as well as sampling some great food I also had a chance to look around the extensive house.   
Newstead Abbey
Lady Caroline Lamb (nee Ponsonby)

In one of the glass cabinets was a transcription of Byron's maiden speech in the House of Commons. This was in support of the Luddites, suggesting that actually they were right to revolt as they were simply trying to earn enough money to feed themselves and their family, but were being thwarted by the march of the factory system. 
Concerning Byron's maiden speech in the House of Lords
So, from Newstead we return to Loughborough where, in 1816, Luddites attacked the lacemaking factory of John Heathcoat and John Boden, which was in Market Street, where Iceland is now. Some say that this was no ordinary attack and that Heathcoat was expecting it, hence he wasn't in town at the time, and very quickly moved his factory to Tiverton, in Devon, taking many of his workforce with him (well, actually they followed him down).  

And so from Loughborough back to Victoria via Lady Flora Hastings ...
And on the programme, Victoria, there was Lady Flora Hastings, she being the daughter of Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, known as Lord Moira from 1793-1816, he of the famous sales of land around Loughborough and NW Leicestershire in the early 19th century.

So, let's settle down for another episode of Victoria tonight!  



  1. Is it possible that Robert Bakewell and Robert Bakewell were related?

  2. Well, it is perfectly possible, but not something I've had time to investigate ... yet! Thanks for your comments. Lynne


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