Windsor 1786

Letters from the Past

To Miss Clement,Stud House, Hampton Court,
from Laura Keppel of Windsor, 1771

The paper has a watermark of a posthorn with the initials GR underneath but no year. It has been sealed with two wafers and then the impressed red wax seal which looks like a silhouette of a head and shoulders of a child.

The letter is addressed to
Miss Clement
At Lady Laura Waldegrave’s
Stud House
Hampton Court

There are three postmarks on the letter.

1) A red FREE in a circle with the letters all the same size. This type was in use from 1765 – 1788
2) WINDSOR town receiving stamp in use 1720 – 1805
3) A Bishop Mark date stamp in black 18mm diameter, 22 day SE September.
Miss Clement was a relative of the Waldegrave ladies.

Inside, the letter is dated only as Sunday afternoon, with no further date, but if it was accepted into the post office at Windsor on that day, then the perpetual calendar shows that Sunday 22nd September occurred in 1786. This could fit in with all the other postmark dates.

However, The manuscript note at the bottom of the letter is Free Fred. Exeter.
Laura Walpole married Keppel, Bishop of Exeter, who was also Dean of Windsor but he died in 1777 so he cannot be the one who signed the Free letter if it was in 1786, and the next Bishop of Exeter after him was John Harley.

So having checked the date, I wondered if the letter had not been put into the post until the next day, so, if the date 22 SEP is actually a Monday, the year that the 22nd SEP is a Monday is 1771. Do the other postmarks fit that year? Yes they do, so this is a reasonable assumption.

Now to the letter which is well written and easy to decipher, despite the abbreviations commonly in use at that time. The only problematic word is the two letter signature.
It is a ‘family’ letter and like all such families there is discord as well as harmony, and things were much the same nearly 250 years ago.

Dear Nancy
I rec’d yrs yesterday & shall take the hint you gave me in it. We go next Thursday to Strawberry Hill & after that shall be settled for a little while.

I am exceedingly happy to hear my father & aunt are reconciled, & hope they will not quarrel again. I wish she cd (could) be persuaded to let him be master of his own house & not dispute about trifles.

I flatter myself the Duke will now recover, but it will require a monstrous deal of care & attention to prevent a relapse. No one can tell what I have gone thro’ this year.

Tell Ly (Lady) Horatia I cannot at all guess what quantity of muslin will do for their night caps. However I’ll bring some with me to Strawberry Hill if I can get any cheap here.
I am dear Nancy
Your affectionate

Note : Strawberry Hill House — often called simply Strawberry Hill — is the Gothic Revival villa in Twickenham, London that was bought and re-built from 1749 by Horace Walpole - the 4th Earl of Orford 1717-1797 who was a noted man of letters.

This painting from wikipedia of the three Waldegrave sisters Elizabeth Laura, Anne Horatia and Charlotte by Sir Joshua Reynolds, shows them occupied in the kind of activities suitable for fashionable ladies at the time.

Stud House has an interesting history. It is located within the grounds of Hampton Court Palace in East Mosely beside the River Thames. It was built in the early 18th century. The Royal Stud had been at Hampton Court since the reign of William III.

It also belonged to Horace Walpole and after his death the house passed first to his cousin Anne Seymour Damer, then to the Waldegrave family, who were living here at the time this letter was written. This information and the image has been taken from the website of Frontiers Developments Ltd the who were responsible for the restoration of the site in 2012. The work at The Stud House included the construction of outbuildings, a mirror pond with underground filtration equipment, formal garden with Italian water features and a Kitchen garden for the house.

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