Gibside ~ November 2021 ~ part 2

Gibside is the childhood home of Mary Eleanor Bowes and I figured it would be nice to do her history. You may need a ☕️ and 🍪 if you’re going to wade through it!

The History Bit

Mary was born in Mayfair, London on 24 February 1749, the daughter and heiress of Sir George Bowes and and his second wife, Mary Gilbert. She spent her childhood at Gibside and at the age of 11 her father died, leaving her a vast fortune from his mining cartel. Mary became the wealthiest heiress in Britain. Taken to live in London by her Mum Mary became a bit of a flighty girl, batting her eyelashes at a fair few Dukes and Marquesses before getting engaged to an Earl at the age of 16, John Lyon the 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

A Scottish nobleman and peer famous for his appearance and known as “the beautiful Lord Strathmore”. He was described thusly by his friend the surgeon Jesse Foote ~ “The late Earl of Strathmore was not calculated to make even a good learned woman a pleasing husband. His Lordship’s pursuits were always innocent and without the smallest guile, but they were not those of science or any other splendid quality. A sincere friend, a hearty Scotchman and a good bottle companion were points of his character.”

As was stipulated in George’s will, Lyon had to get his surname changed to Bowes, which further down the line became Bowes-Lyon. They married on her 18th birthday in 1767. They had 5 children, the oldest son being John Bowes who became the 10th Earl and has his own history which you can read about in my post The Bowes Museum. Thanks to Mary Eleanor’s fortune, she and her hubby lived high on the hog. Hubby spent a lot of time and money restoring his family seat – Glamis Castle in Scotland, whilst Mary wrote a poetical drama entitled The Siege of Jerusalem in 1769 and got interested in botany, financing an expedition by explorer William Paterson to collect plants in the Cape of Good Hope. It wasn’t the happiest of marriages, they didn’t have much in common, and his family didn’t care much for her, John’s brother often insulted her in public. John got sick with tuberculosis and his Doctors advised him to go for treatment in Bath and Bristol, which he did for long periods of time. Mary stayed in London partying and having dalliances with young men of her aquaintance. On 7 March 1776, Lord Strathmore died at sea on his way to Portugal.

As a widow Mary regained control of her vast fortune, and paid off John’s debts of £145,000 without blinking an eye. Mary’s lover at the time was a chap called George Gray, a Scotsman but born in Calcutta in 1737 where his Dad worked as a surgeon for the East India Company, and Mary was pregnant by him. She didn’t want to get hitched as he’d proven a bit of a numpty by making and squandering a small fortune for the company as well as the considerable inheritance of his first Missis, resulting in him returning to England under a cloud in 1766. Really Mary, what were you thinking?? Anyway Mary induced an abortion by drinking some sort of “black, inky kind of medicine” according to her diary, (her candid account of these abortions is one of very few available first-person descriptions of secret abortions in the era before legalised abortion) but had to do the same again when she got pregnant again, and yet again. I can only eye roll.

On her 4th pregancy she decided she really should just marry the guy, and they got engaged in 1777.

But in that same summer of ’77, along came the charming and suave Anglo~Irish adventurer Andrew Robinson-Stoney, who seduced our lady and manipulated himself into her home and bed. The cad! He’d been a Lieutenant in the British Army but called himself ‘Captain’ Stoney. Stoney was a serial gold digger, and had started that career when he married Hannah Newton, a twenty-year-old heiress from County Durham. He married her, returned to the army, and convinced her to settle £5000 on him if perchance she died childless, and then proceeded to mistreat her, beating her up and starving her. She finally croaked during childbirth after several still-births, as did the baby.

He tricked our Mary good and proper by arranging a fake duel with the editor of a newspaper The Morning Post, the Reverend Sir Henry Bate Dudley, who had published scurrilous articles about Mary’s private life. But it was Stoney himself who wrote the articles both criticising and defending the countess. The duel was supposed to appeal to Mary’s romantic nature, and when he pretended to be mortally wounded, Stoney begged her to grant his dying wish – to marry her. Taken in by the ruse, she agreed.

I am quite staggered at Mary’s stupidity really, she had been well educated as a child, was reasonably intelligent and richer than God, but a complete nincompoop when it came to blokes. Anyway, I digress, and she suffered for her stupidity.

Of course, after marrying Mary in church, on a stretcher, mortally wounded, he made a fast and complete recovery. Attempting to take control of his wife’s fortune he discovered Mary had made a secret pre-nuptual agreement safeguarding the profits of her estate for her own use, but he forced her to sign a revocation handing control to him. He then went on to subject Mary to eight years of physical and mental abuse including confining her to her own house. He later took Mary and her daughter Anna Maria (the Earl’s daughter) off to Paris, whence they returned only after a writ had been served on him. He is also said to have raped the maids, invited prostitutes into the home and fathered numerous illegitimate children. A real nice guy.

In 1785 her loyal maids helped her escape Stoney’s custody and Mary filed for divorce through the ecclesiastical courts. But it didn’t end there, Stoney abducted Mary with the help of some accomplices and carried her off to the North Country. She later alleged that he threatened to rape and kill her, that he gagged and beat her and carried her around the countryside on horseback in one of the coldest spells of an unusually cold winter. The country was alerted; Stoney Bowes was eventually arrested, and Mary rescued.

The divorce trials were sensational and the talk of London. Although Mary initially won public sympathy, she didn’t do herself any favours by having an affair with the brother of one of her lawyers, which became public knowledge. Stoney made known other ‘salacious details’ of Mary’s past excesses and ensured the publication of the ‘confessions’ that she had earlier made in writing to him – he even purchased shares in a newspaper to publish these memoirs. There was also a general feeling that Mary had behaved badly in attempting to prevent her husband’s access to her fortune. Pfui!

Thankfully Stoney and his accomplices were found guilty of abduction and banged up for 3 years, should have been much longer IMHO! The divorce case continued and Stoney lost the battle to retain control of the Bowes fortune whilst the case was still ongoing, which was a nice interim judgement as the case was still not resolved by the time Mary died in 1800 when it became pointless for it to be continued. He was let out of prison on her death and had the effrontery to attempt to have her will invalidated. He lost that case (yay!) and was then sued by his own lawyers for their expenses. Unable to pay these debts, he came under prison jurisdiction (in that era, bankruptcy was punished with prison), although he lived outside the prison walls with his mistress, Mary ‘Polly’ Sutton. He died on 16 June 1810. And good riddance.

After 1792 Mary lived quietly in Hampshire, Purbrook Park firstly, and then Stourfield House, an isolated mansion on the edge of the village of Pokesdown, Christchurch. She took with her a full set of maids and servants including the maid who helped her escape from Stoney, Mary Morgan. When Morgan died in 1796 Mary gave up socialising all together and spent her time looking after her pets, which included a large number of dogs who had hot dinners cooked for them daily. The locals thought she was a bit bonkers, but she did reach out to them now and again, sending dinners and beers to the men working in the fields. Her three sons visited occasionally, not stopping long, but two of her daughters lived with her. In her will she left presents of dresses and other items to the community and an annuity for the widow Lockyer of Pokesdown Farm.

Mary died on 28 April 1800. Undertakers came from London with a hearse and three mourning carriages and transported her body to London. She can be found in Westminster Abbey, and her tombstone is in Poet’s Corner there.

Well done if you read this far, you are my favourite visitor! 😊

The mansion built by Sir William Blakiston in the 1600’s, became vacant in the 1920s after death duties forced the Bowes-Lyon family to scale back its lavish lifestyle and give up some of its great houses. The building was stripped of its fixtures and fittings, with many of the fireplaces and other items being transferred to Glamis Castle. 

Mary’s childhood home. Sadly not restored and cordoned off.

The orangery is Mary’s only original contribution to the buildings of Gibside. When she commissioned plant collector William Paterson to explore South Africa in search of rare and new species, the orangery – or green house – would have been home to this brilliant and diverse collection of unusual plants.

the orangery.
inside the orangery

The original layout of this space was into three rooms to the north, known as ’garden rooms’. There was also one large room to the south, purely for the display of plants. Especially in winter when the more exotic species were kept heated throughout the colder months.

The large south-west facing windows provided a huge amount of light and a heating system would have kept plants warm during the winter.

Mary requested that she be buried wearing her first wedding dress, and it has been painstakingly recreated and stands in the chapel at Gibside.

I do
I did

And that’s the end of Mary’s story. Gibside is a lovely place to walk around, especially in autumn, so I’ll finish with a couple of random pictures!

in the walled garden
all done.
hanging on

That’s all folks! Stay tooned for next week and a visit to someotherwhere.

all pictures clickable to embiggen.

refs:-
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside
https://professorhedgehogsjournal.uk/2020/08/07/the-unhappy-countess/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Bowes,_Countess_of_Strathmore_and_Kinghorne
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibside

Full album HERE

Gibside ~ November 2021

I last did a small post on Gibside back in 2013, that no-one just about has seen. Sophie and I did visit in 2016 but the 365 back then got in the way of me doing a Fraggle Report that time. Anyhoo, in November gone, we went looking for autumn, the best time to visit there.

The History Bit ☕️🍪

Gibside,  a country estate, set amongst the peaks and slopes of the Derwent Valley.  Previously owned by the Bowes- Lyon family. It is now a National Trust property. The main house on the estate is now a shell, although the property is most famous for its chapel. The stables, walled garden and Banqueting House are also intact.  It is also the childhood home of Mary Bowes, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne (24 February 1749 – 28 April 1800), known as “The Unhappy Countess”, who was an 18th-century British heiress, notorious for her licentious lifestyle, who was married at one time the 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She and the Earl are ancestors of Queen Elizabeth 2nd. We’ll get to Mary in part 2.

The Gibside Estate was aquired by the Blakiston Family through marriage around 1540, and Sir William Blakiston (1562–1641) (Willy 1) replaced the old house with a spacious mansion between 1603 and 1620. Jumping forward to 1693, Sir William’s great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Blakiston, married Sir William Bowes (Willy 2) (1657–1707) and as a result the Gibside property came into the possession of the Bowes family in 1713. The joined forces of the two influential families and the aquisition of Gibside gave the Bowes family an even greater influence in the north of the county and a share in the immense wealth that was to be acquired from the coal trade. The Blakiston estate included some of the area’s richest coal seams.

After Willy 2 came George, who inherited the estate in 1722. Dad to Mary, the “Bowes heiress” who married John Lyon, the 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. John had to change his surname to Bowes due to a provision in her father’s will that any suitor had to take the family name. This was a device to continue the Bowes lineage in the absence of a male heir. The estate remained in the Bowes and Bowes-Lyon family until the 20th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries though they carried out many improvements including landscaping, Gibside Chapel, built between 1760 and 1812, the Banqueting House, a column of Liberty,a substantial stable block, an avenue of oaks and several hundred acres of forest. The top floor of the main house was remodelled as a giant parapet and the building was also extended to the side.

Following the death of  John Bowes (the 10th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne) in 1820, it belonged to his legitimated son, yet another John Bowes 🙄 until his death in 1885 (he is buried in the Gibside chapel), when under an established trust, it reverted to his cousin Claude the the 13th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. It had been the main residence of John Bowes’ mother, Mary Milner, by then Dowager Countess of Strathmore, and her second husband, the politician, Sir William Hutt, (who had been John Bowes’ tutor), until the latter’s death in 1882, which was the last time it was permanently occupied by the family.

I’ll be using photos from across the 3 visits, as we didn’t do everything everytime.

Gibside Chapel (2013)

The mausoleum chapel at the south end of the ‘Grand Walk’ was built following the death of George Bowes owner of the estate, in 1760. The Greek Palladian-style building was designed by James Paine for Lord Strathmore, who had inherited the estate. George Bowes was finally interred in the mausoleum on its completion in 1812. The building is Grade 1 listed on the National Heritage List for England.

Interior (2016)
ceiling detail (2016)
pulpit (pulpit)

The Banqueting House is an 18th Century gothic folly, built 1751 by Daniel Garrett for George Bowes. Restored in 1980 by Charlewood, Curry ,Wilson and Atkinson and is now a holiday home you can rent from the Landmark Trust, so you can’t go in it unless you book a ticket for one of their public heritage days, hopefully we’ll do that this September. Of course if you have £900 and 3 people to share it with you can have a 3 night stay there. It sits atop a small hill with views over the Derwent Valley, and there’s an octagonal pond at the bottom of the hill.

The Banqueting House (2021)
and in 2013
View of Derwent Valley. (2013)

The ‘Column of Liberty’ was commissioned by Sir George Bowes and begun in the 1750s. It reflected his politics as he was a Whig – a liberal political party in the UK which in the 1680s and the 1850s contested power with their rivals, the Tories -(Conservative Party). Set at the top of a steep hillock, the monument itself is a Doric order column, and topped by a standing bronze female figure, originally gilded, carrying a cap of liberty on a pole.

You can see it for miles and here it is, very tiny, seen from the far end of the avenue of oaks known as the Grand Walk.

Column of Liberty. (2021)

Hope you’re not seeing it on a phone screen 🤣

A bit closer then..

And then we’re right there..

Lady Liberty

That will do for today and next time we’ll have a look at the Countess Mary Bowes’ life and times, and see the main house and the orangery.

📷😊

Day 77~366

Had a lovely day out in the sunshine with my pal Sophie. We went to visit Path Head water mill at Blaydon, then on to Gibside. I found lots of squares in Gibside but as we went out this evening too have not had time to process the pictures, so just did this one for now. Might have to do a Fraggle Report tomorrow 🙂

day77w

Gibside

A couple of weekends past, my friend Sophie and I went on a photo outing at Gibside,  a country estate, set amongst the peaks and slopes of the Derwent Valley.  Previously owned by the Bowes-Lyon family. It is now a National Trust property. The main house on the estate is now a shell, although the property is most famous for its chapel. The stables, walled garden and Banqueting House are also intact.  It is also the childhood home of Mary Bowes, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne (24 February 1749 – 28 April 1800), known as “The Unhappy Countess”, who was an 18th-century British heiress, notorious for her licentious lifestyle, who was married at one time to the 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She and the Earl are ancestors of Queen Elizabeth 2nd. Well worth a click through to Mary, she was a bit of a girl, especially if you are a Downton Abbey Fan, fact being more gobsmacking than fiction.  Anyway here are some of my shots of our day there.

 

The ChapelThe Chapel.

The Avenue of Oaks

The Avenue of Oaktrees leading way from, or to, the chapel

has to be doneHas to be done 🙂

The OrangeryThe Orangery

conservationEvery so often the conservation team at Gibside catch the visiting birds and monitor their numbers, health, weight and sex.

Walking around the estsateA walk in the grounds

The ViewThe view across the Derwent Valley

The Banqueting Hall & Octagonal Pond

My favourite part, The Banqueting Hall & The Octagonal Pond.

You can rent the Banqueting Hall for a romantic weekend… it’s on my bucket list 🙂