search for a less than humble abode

Parliament voted a king’s ransom to that the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley could have a home, a palace, a mansion, fit for his status as savior of the British empire. And after Waterloo that sum increased further. Yet house hunting troubles, and the woes of selection for Britain’s greatest hero were almost on par with his struggles against Napoleon. Finding an abode was almost his own Waterloo: it took eight years and a procession of at least twenty-five possible palaces before Wellington’s mind was irrevocably made up. ….

William Sadler. The Battle of Waterloo. Read More:

When William Beckford’s Fonthill Abbey came on the market, Wyatt remembered that his own famous father, James Wyatt, had designed it for Beckford in 1795. Though the writer William Hazlitt had denounced Fonthill as “a cathedral turned into a toy shop,” Benjamin Wyatt, with pangs of regret, persuaded the Duke to view it, who was surprisingly gratified and surprised at what he saw. Wyatt obtained for the Duke an option and was soon busily making reports on the premises and drawing up plans for new buildings.

The question remained: The Duke had already paid for Stratfield Saye, and what would become of it with Fonthill? Wyatt, ever the angler, suggested tearing down the mansion at Stratfield and drawing rent from its profitable farms. In any event, the Duke’s trustees kept a tight hold on his money, and a cold eye on Wyatt’s enthusiams. Of couse, as Wyatt insisted, he could buy Fonthill and resell Stratfield at a profit. The necessary improvements to Fonthill wold only cost 95,000 as opposed to 216,000 for a new Stratfield Saye. In today’s money the total project land and building is well over one billion dollars. Like building Dallas stadium.

—This long vista was achieved because the central octagonal hall supported the massive tower above on arches. Although this was undoubtedly an appealing visual design feature, it may ultimately have also been the Abbey’s demise.
It seems the whole building was either constantly being repaired, or added to, and after living there for over 20 years Beckford decided to sell because, he said, of mounting costs. Beckford himself is known to have remarked that the abbey accounted for at least £30,000 a year, and so it was fortunate for him that a Mr John Farquhar, ammunitions dealer, and it is said an eccentric miser, arrived on the scene and promptly paid the sum of £330,000 for it. Beckford then wisely, and no doubt hastily, moved to nearby Bath.
The tower, which had partially collapsed several times already, finally collapsed for the last time on the afternoon of 21st December 1825. An eyewitness account from someone who saw it fall describes it thus:-
“The manner of it falling was very beautiful, it first sank perpendicularly, and slowly, then burst and spread out over the roofs adjoining on every side.” —Read More:/wp-admin/post.php?post=65449&action=edit&message=10

A new Stratfield Saye? Those most familiar with the legend of the Iron Duke may wonder whether his heart was altogether in the search for a palace. Wyatt obviously hoped that it was. Parliament certainly expected something “fitting,” that is, splendid, with all the necessary appendages and fixins’.  And Wellington himself was not the man to ignore what was considered suitable or fitting. It was expected of a gentleman of rank , right down to the sparkling gems on his wife and the shining brass on his coach.

In his person, Wellington was immaculate, his horses and carriages were his pride, and he made up for his wife’s dislike for jewelry by loading his daughters-in-law with diamonds. At the same time, like many great soldiers, he treasured certain simplicities. His eating and drinking were abstemious. His thought and language were plain. Everything about him was open, honest, direct.

—The Duke could not bear to be helped to do anything he thought he could do himself. Haydon, the artist, who visited him at Walmer Castle to paint his portrait, says in his Journal— “The Duke told me he brushed his own coat, and would like to black his own boots.” In the same spirit, the Duke’s groom had a very difficult task in assisting him to mount when he grew very feeble without his Grace finding him out.—Read More:


(see link at end)…Prior to publication, she and her publisher, John Joseph Stockdale, wrote to two hundred or so of her former lovers and acquaintances giving them the opportunity to buy themselves out for £20 per annum or a lump sum of £200. These were quite modest payments considering the wealth of her victims and the value of a reputation. Some took up the offer, such as George IV, who lay on his deathbed four years later cursing ‘Harriette Wilson and her hellish gang’, while others, such as the Duke of Wellington, challenged her, so the legend goes, to publish and be damned (which infamous rebuke, typical of Wilson’s legacy, has no basis in fact). Those men who bought Wilson’s silence had the passages in which they featured simply crossed-out. Occasionally, if she felt malicious, various lovers who had bought-out would get a very handsome write-up indeed, which the canny reader would recognise for being the under-hand exposure it was meant to be. Henry Brougham, for example, who represented Wilson’s legal interests as well as paying her an annuity in exchange for her silence, was praised by her as a man of ‘brilliant talents’, actuated ‘solely by the spirit of philanthropy.’ The higher the payment, the greater the flattery. On the other hand, minor figures in her life such as the Duke of Wellington, with whom she had a brief liaison before his marriage, or Frederick Lamb, take on major roles in the Memoirs as a result of sufficiently irritating her when she was demanding payment. Never once, however, does Harriette Wilson mock the sexual prowess of her lovers. Wellington is sent up for being a class-A bore, Lamb is mocked for his stinginess. The poor hygiene of various of her lovers is bemoaned, and invariably Wilson criticised their callous behaviour towards her. Read More:

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