From the diary of John Evelyn (16 March 1683)

"I went to see Sir Josiah Child's prodigious cost in planting walnut-trees about his seat, and making fish-ponds many miles in circuit, in Epping Forest, in a barren spot, as oftentimes these suddenly moneyed men for the most part. seat themselves. He, from a merchant's apprentice, and management of the East India Company's stock, being arrived to an estate ('tis said) 200,000 pounds, and lately married his daughter to the eldest son of the Duke of Beaufort, late Marquis of Worcester, with 50,000 pounds portional present, and various expectations."



From Tour through the Eastern Counties of England by Daniel Defoe (1722)

"From hence I came over the forest again--that is to say, over the lower or western part of it, where it is spangled with fine villages, and these villages filled with fine seats, most of them built by the citizens of London, as I observed before, but the lustre of them seems to be entirely swallowed up in the magnificent palace of the Lord Castlemain, whose father, Sir Josiah Child, as it were, prepared it in his life for the design of his son, though altogether unforeseen, by adding to the advantage of its situation innumerable rows of trees, planted in curious order for avenues and vistas to the house, all leading up to the place where the old house stood, as to a centre.

In the place adjoining, his lordship, while he was yet Sir Richard Child only, and some years before he began the foundation of his new house, laid out the most delicious, as well as most spacious, pieces of ground for gardens that is to be seen in all this part of England. The greenhouse is an excellent building, fit to entertain a prince; it is furnished with stoves and artificial places for heat from an apartment in which is a bagnio and other conveniences, which render it both useful and pleasant. And these gardens have been so the just admiration of the world, that it has been the general diversion of the citizens to go out to see them, till the crowds grew too great, and his lordship was obliged to restrain his servants from showing them, except on one or two days in a week only.

The house is built since these gardens have been finished. The building is all of Portland stone in the front, which makes it look extremely glorious and magnificent at a distance, it being the particular property of that stone (except in the streets of London, where it is tainted and tinged with the smoke of the city) to grow whiter and whiter the longer it stands in the open air.

As the front of the house opens to a long row of trees, reaching to the great road at Leightonstone, so the back face, or front (if that be proper), respects the gardens, and, with an easy descent, lands you upon the terrace, from whence is a most beautiful prospect to the river, which is all formed into canals and openings to answer the views from above and beyond the river; the walks and wildernesses go on to such a distance, and in such a manner up the hill, as they before went down, that the sight is lost in the woods adjoining, and it looks all like one planted garden as far as the eye can see.

I shall cover as much as possible the melancholy part of a story which touches too sensibly many, if not most, of the great and flourishing families in England. Pity and matter of grief is it to think that families, by estate able to appear in such a glorious posture as this, should ever be vulnerable by so mean a disaster as that of stock-jobbing. But the general infatuation of the day is a plea for it, so that men are not now blamed on that account. South Sea was a general possession, and if my Lord Castlemain was wounded by that arrow shot in the dark it was a misfortune. But it is so much a happiness that it was not a mortal wound, as it was to some men who once seemed as much out of the reach of it. And that blow, be it what it will, is not remembered for joy of the escape, for we see this noble family, by prudence and management, rise out of all that cloud, if it may be allowed such a name, and shining in the same full lustre as before.

This cannot be said of some other families in this county, whose fine parks and new-built palaces are fallen under forfeitures and alienations by the misfortunes of the times and by the ruin of their masters' fortunes in that South Sea deluge.

But I desire to throw a veil over these things as they come in my way; it is enough that we write upon them, as was written upon King Harold's tomb at Waltham Abbey, Infelix, and let all the rest sleep among things that are the fittest to be forgotten.

From my Lord Castlemain's, house and the rest of the fine dwellings on that side of the forest, for there are several very good houses at Wanstead, only that they seem all swallowed up in the lustre of his lordship's palace, I say, from thence, I went south, towards the great road over that part of the forest called the Flats, where we see a very beautiful but retired and rural seat of Mr. Lethulier's, eldest son of the late Sir John Lethulier, of Lusum, in Kent, of whose family I shall speak when I come on that side.

By this turn I came necessarily on to Stratford, where I set out. And thus having finished my first circuit, I conclude my first letter, and am,

Sir, your most humble and obedient servant."



From a letter written by Horace Walpole and addressed to Richard Bentley (17 July 1755)

"I dined yesterday at Wanstead many years have passed since I saw it. The disposition of the house and the prospect are better than I expected, and very fine: the garden, which they tell you cost as much as the house, that is, 100,000 pounds (don't tell Mr. Muntz) is wretched; the furniture fine, but totally without taste: such continences and incontinences of Scipio and Alexander by I don't know whom! such flame-coloured gods and goddesses, by Kent! such family-pieces, by--I believe the late Earl himself, for they are as ugly as the children he really begot! The whole great apartment is of oak, finally carved, unpainted and has a charming effect. The present Earl is the most generous creature in the world: in the first chamber I entered he offered me four marble tables that lay in cases about the room: I compounded, after forty refusals of every thing I commended, to bring away only a haunch of venison: I believe he has not had so cheap a visit a good while. I commend myself, as I ought: for, to be sure, there were twenty ebony chairs, and a couch, and a table, and a glass, that would have tried the virtue of a philosopher of double my size! After dinner we dragged a gold-fish pond for my lady Fitzroy and Lord S I could not help telling my Lord Tilney, that they would certainly burn the poor fish for the gold, like the old lace. There arrived a Marquis St. Simon, from Paris, who understands English, and who has seen your book of designs for Gray's Odes: he was much pleased at meeting me, to whom the individual cat belonged, and you may judge whether I was pleased with him. Adieu! my dear Sir."




From Don Juan (Canto xi)  by Lord Byron  (written 1822) Although this is included because of its reference to Wellesley-Pole, the passage gives an insight into the widespread disaffection with the aristocracy and government which had built up in England by the early 1820's.

"'Where is the world?' cries Young, at eighty- 'Where
The world in which a man was born? 'Alas!
Where is the world of eight years past? 'T was there-
I look for it- 't is gone, a globe of glass!
Crack'd, shiver'd, vanish'd, scarcely gazed on, ere
A silent change dissolves the glittering mass.
Statesmen, chiefs, orators, queens, patriots, kings,
And dandies, all are gone on the wind's wings.

Where is Napoleon the Grand? God knows.
Where little Castlereagh? The devil can tell:
Where Grattan, Curran, Sheridan, all those
Who bound the bar or senate in their spell?
Where is the unhappy Queen, with all her woes?
And where the Daughter, whom the Isles loved well?
Where are those martyr'd saints the Five per Cents?
And where- oh, where the devil are the rents?

Where 's Brummel? Dish'd. Where 's Long Pole Wellesley? Diddled.
Where 's Whitbread? Romilly? Where 's George the Third?
Where is his will? (That 's not so soon unriddled.)
And where is 'Fum' the Fourth, our 'royal bird?'
Gone down, it seems, to Scotland to be fiddled
Unto by Sawney's violin, we have heard:
'Caw me, caw thee'- for six months hath been hatching
This scene of royal itch and loyal scratching.

Where is Lord This? And where my Lady That?
The Honourable Mistresses and Misses?
Some laid aside like an old Opera hat,
Married, unmarried, and remarried (this is
An evolution oft performed of late).
Where are the Dublin shouts- and London hisses?
Where are the Grenvilles? Turn'd as usual. Where
My friends the Whigs? Exactly where they were.

Where are the Lady Carolines and Franceses?
Divorced or doing thereanent. Ye annals
So brilliant, where the list of routs and dances is,-
Thou Morning Post, sole record of the panels
Broken in carriages, and all the phantasies
Of fashion,- say what streams now fill those channels?
Some die, some fly, some languish on the Continent,
Because the times have hardly left them one tenant.

Some who once set their caps at cautious dukes,
Have taken up at length with younger brothers:
Some heiresses have bit at sharpers' hooks:
Some maids have been made wives, some merely mothers;
Others have lost their fresh and fairy looks:
In short, the list of alterations bothers.
There 's little strange in this, but something strange is
The unusual quickness of these common changes.

Talk not of seventy years as age; in seven
I have seen more changes, down from monarchs to
The humblest individual under heaven,
Than might suffice a moderate century through.
I knew that nought was lasting, but now even
Change grows too changeable, without being new:
Nought 's permanent among the human race,
Except the Whigs not getting into place.

I have seen Napoleon, who seem'd quite a Jupiter,
Shrink to a Saturn. I have seen a Duke
(No matter which) turn politician stupider,
If that can well be, than his wooden look.
But it is time that I should hoist my 'blue Peter,'
And sail for a new theme:- I have seen- and shook
To see it- the king hiss'd, and then caress'd;
But don't pretend to settle which was best.

I have seen the Landholders without a rap-
I have seen Joanna Southcote- I have seen-
The House of Commons turn'd to a tax-trap-
I have seen that sad affair of the late Queen-
I have seen crowns worn instead of a fool's cap-
I have seen a Congress doing all that 's mean-
I have seen some nations like o'erloaded asses
Kick off their burthens, meaning the high classes.

I have seen small poets, and great prosers, and
Interminable- not eternal- speakers-
I have seen the funds at war with house and land-
I have seen the country gentlemen turn squeakers-
I have seen the people ridden o'er like sand
By slaves on horseback- I have seen malt liquors
Exchanged for 'thin potations' by John Bull-
I have seen john half detect himself a fool.-

But 'carpe diem,' Juan, 'carpe, carpe!'
To-morrow sees another race as gay
And transient, and devour'd by the same harpy.
'Life 's a poor player,'- then 'play out the play,
Ye villains!' above all keep a sharp eye
Much less on what you do than what you say:
Be hypocritical, be cautious, be
Not what you seem, but always what you see."


Characters referred to in the extract:

Viscount Castereagh (1769-1822) Britain's Foreign Secretary at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Put much effort into the Congress of Vienna of 1815 which laid out the map for a lasting peace in Europe.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) Seized power in a coup d'etat in 1799 and became leader (known as First Consul, then Emperor) of France. Embarked on a military crusade to wipe out feudalism in Europe and establish democratic institutions modelled on those born out of the French Revolution. His string of successes and reputation for solid leadership came to an end with the disastrous 1812 invasion of Russia and the final defeat at Waterloo in 1815 at the hands of the British. A man whose influence on the world lasts to this day.

Henry Grattan (1746-1820) Irish politician

Richard Sheridan (1751-1816) Playwright

Queen Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821) Wife of George IV. Noted for eccentric behaviour, she was tried for adultery and blocked from attending the Coronation.

Princess Charlotte (1796-1817) Only child of George IV (then Prince Regent) and Queen Caroline. She died prematurely in 1817 triggering a royal scramble to produce a new heir.

George 'Beau' Brummel (1778-1840) Fashion icon. Moved to France to escape debt problems and after falling out with the Prince Regent.

Samuel Whitbread (1764-1815) Whig politician and Brewer.

Sir Samuel Romilly (1757-1818) Politician and lawyer, a leading light in attempts to abolish slavery and restrict the death penalty.

King George III (1738-1820) Found renewed fame in the film 'The Madness of King George'. Suffered from bouts of madness caused probably by a kidney problem. As a result of this the reins of power were handed to his son in 1811 as Prince Regent.

The Prince Regent, later King George IV (1762-1830) Made Prince Regent due to  the incapacity of his father George III in 1811. He was one of the guests at Wellesley-Pole's grand fete at Wanstead House to celebrate the Duke of Wellington's victory against Napoleon. Regarded as dandyish and indolent his popular appeal nosedived with the trial of his wife Queen Caroline for adultery followed by her exclusion from the Coronation in 1821.



From the Auction Catalogue of the contents of Wanstead House (1822)

WANSTEAD HOUSE, ESSEX.  Magnificent Furniture, Collection Of Fine Paintings And Sculpture, Massive Silver & Gilt Plate, Splendid Library Of Choice Books, The Valuable Cellars Of Fine-Flavoured Old Wines, Ales etc. etc.

A Catalogue Of The Magnificent And Costly Furniture Of The Princely Mansion, Wanstead House, Consisting Of Grand Costly State Bedsteads, With Rich Velvet, Silk, Damask, And Other Furnitures; Window Curtains And Hangings; Excellent Bedding;

Splendid Suites Of Drawing And Ball Room Curtains Of Genoa Velvet, Damasks, And Silks, Trimmed With Gold Lace; Couches, Sofas, And Chairs, To Correspond; Beautiful Axminster Carpets; Brilliant Plates Of Glass; Set Of Oriental Ebony Chairs And Sofas; Screens And Cabinets; Rare Old China, And Rich Cut Glass; A Variety Of Parisian And Buhl Cabinets And Bookcases; Magnificent Library Tables; Cabinet Articles Of Every Description; Elegant Clocks; Superb Chandeliers; Full-Sized Billiard Table; Splendid Services Of Massive Rich Chased And Gilt Silver Plate, About 22,000 Ounces, In Useful And Ornamental Articles; Valuable Agate-Handle Knives And Forks; Exquisite Carvings In Ivory, Superbly Mounted; Magnificent Plateau, etc.

A Valuable Collection Of Fine Paintings And Sculpture, By Italian, Flemish, And English Masters; Bronzes, Casts From The Antique, Splendid Gobelin Tapestry, Damask And Velvet Hangings, etc. Library Of Ancient And Modern Books, Elegantly Bound, Embracing Many Early Specimens Of Typography, Continued By Every Work Of Celebrity To The Present Day; Also Abounding In The Graphic Art, With The Most Choice Impressions From The Foreign And English Schools.

The Choice Fine-Flavoured Old Wines, In Wood And Bottle; Capital Home-Brewed Ale; Fixtures; Two Fire Engines; Brewing And Dairy Utensils; Garden Lights And Tools; Green House Plants; Pleasure Boats, Punts; Capital Harness; And A Variety Of Other Articles, The Whole Forming An Assemblage Of The Most Valuable Property Ever Offered To The Public: Which, By Order Of The Trustees, Will Be Sold By Auction, By Mr. Robins, (Of Warwick House, Regent Street) On The Premises, Wanstead House, On Monday, 10th June, 1822, And 31 Following Days, Saturdays And Sundays Excepted, At Eleven O'Clock.