Viscount Sydney,1837

Letters from the past
"Viscount Sydney, Bowhill, Selkirk
from George Golding,1837"
by
Eunice Shanahan

This third and last Viscount, elevated to an Earldom in 1874, died in 1890,was a liberal politician and amongst his posts were two stints as Lord Chamberlain. This was a position concerning the moral standards at the time, and he took it very seriously. The Lord Chamberlain decided which plays could be presented, and which books were acceptable to be published. He was the effective censor at the time.

When he died, the official line was that he was an assiduous and much respected Lord Chamberlain. This caricature was one of a series of Victorian Statesmen, and would have been greatly appreciated at the time by the readers of Vanity Fair, however.their description which accompanied the cartoon was somewhat less flattering:

“it is fortunate for the Liberals that they are able to provide for so eminent a partisan as Lord Sydney the highly appropriate post of Chamberlain...the rights of women, as they are, lie in his absolute control – and the power that control gives is appalling... Lord Sydney has been at least equally successful in defining moral and material limits from the one extremity in vogue on the stage to the other which is affected in the palace.... Probably Lord Sydney's politics are liberal; possibly there are some ladies who think that his opinions are not liberal; but these are trifles. When his career is recorded, impartial history will write of him: "He received the Royal commands and lengthened the skirts of the ballet.”

John Robert Townshend B 9/8/1805 d 14/2/1890
”Caricature by Ape, Published in Vanity Fair May 1869
The Right Honourable
The Earl Sydney GCB PC”
These initials stand for Knight Grand Cross of the Bath and Privy Councillor.


So the next letter in this collection of 7 letters relating to the Viscount Sydney of Frognal is this one dated 1837

It is addressed to the Right Honble Viscount Sydney
Bow Hill Selkirk,NB and there is no receiving stamp on the letter.

There are six postal markings

  • a framed Twopenny post receiving house TP Foots Cray, which was part of the Twopenny Post from 1837
  • the handstruck 2 of the Twopenny Post,
  • the letter was postmarked with the transfer stamp in black ink, oval frame 7 nt 7 16 AUG 1837 in use 1836-1843, to the General post
  • there it received the General post To Pay 2d only, This was applied by the General Post but only on letters received in the Twopenny Post and was supposed to be applied to Franked mail, which was not exempt from paying the Twopenny post charge.
  • The charge mark of 1/&emdash; which covered the cost of sending a single page letter a distance of between 230 and 300 miles. This is strange, as Selkirk is listed as being 351 miles from London.
  • the last one was the General Post morning duty stamp applied before the letter was sent on the journey to Selkirk. It is dated 16 AUG 1837 and identified as a morning duty stamp as the year is in a straight line at the bottom of the stamp.

  • So now to the letter which is written BY George Golding from Frognal, the estate belonging to Lord Sydney (see introduction for information about the estates on the page with the four earlier letters).

    Frognal August 16th 1837

    My Lord
    I received the favour of your Lordship’s letter this morning enclosing three drafts

    For Mr Woollett £100. 13s. 0d
    “ “ Strother £ 70 0s 0d
    “ “ Ritchie £ 42. 0s 0d

    I will immediately forward them to the respective parties. The Coachman says the Roan horse is better. The horses have two feeds of Oats a day and are disposed as follows

    2 in the Paddock by the Malthouse having the shed to go into.
    2 in the yard at Frognal being well littered
    2 in the front Stable (one on each Side the bars being removed) and bars put by the Side of the Passage
    1 in loose box
    The old Mare and the Poney are in the Rookery.

    The above is I think the best arrangement we could make. We have very little grass and the ground is getting very hard. The Coachman would rather the horses not have any green meat, as Tares or Lucerne I have offered to put some. Pickwest(?) is doing some jobs at the Cottages in Green Lane, he will not be long there, some of the other Cottages want a little looking to, but nothing material that I know of wants doing to any of them. The horses are working ground in the New Road. I wish to get it done now in this fine weather

    I am My Lord

    Yours Lordship’s most Obedient
    humble servant
    Geo. Golding”.


    The next letter is a general post letter from Brighton addressed to Mr George Golding, Frognal, Footscray, (which was in the twopenny post system), and it has a very poorly applied Brighton datestamp which has been overstamped by one of the four clear postal markings showing where it was handled once it arrived in London.

    1) Morning duty stamp 30 Mar 1839 in red. This has a double rim and an identifying letter A above the date

    2) Transfer stamp to the Twopenny Post indented in red 10 F’nn Mr 30 1839

    3) TP Rate 2d charge in black ink. This was one of two stamps in use concurrently after 1836 which was applied to all franked letters received from the General Post. This particular stamp had only one full stop between the letters T and P, and after the figure 2 a capital letter D with a solid line and a two-dot line underneath the D.

    4) the charge rate of 8 Brighton to London this covered a distance of between 50 and 80 miles and Brighton mileage stamps showed 58 miles as the distance to London. In Alan Robertson's book, it lists the town under the original name of Brighthelmstone as 60 miles from London.

    As a matter of interest the letter is written on paper with a black edge, indicating mourning paper, but seems to have no relevance to the letter, perhaps it is leftover from a previous death in the family.

    The writing appears to have been written b someone either in a hurry or upset, and it is hard to decipher. Some of the words are questionable, so I have put them in brackets.

    Brighton 28 March 1839 Sir I think the Land Owners of Chiselhurst have done right respecting their tithes and am obliged for your communication.

    My Ground diggers father writes to me that you object to pay what has always been paid for these 30 years & upwards for a (hay ground?) without any variation except to the wholesale dealers (the Trustees of the Turnpike) I (refused?) to let them take any more at the reduced price and I certainly will not sell to any one for less than the parish of Chiselhurst have been in the habit of giving, therefore I hope you won’t give me any trouble by attempting to disturb an arrangement of such long standing which I think no Justice would assist in doing. I shall certainly (resist) to (their interest??)

    Your most obed S
    Robt Uppertace


    The last letter we have in this collection was addressed to Mr George Golding, Scadbury Park Farm, Chislehurst in 1840.

    This letter was dated 30 January 1840, not long after the introduction of the Penny Post, and the sender had lodged the letter in the Twopenny Post Cornhill Receiving office, and pre-paid the postage. Prepayment of postage was not obligatory until some years later, and the actual postage stamps (the Penny Blacks) were not in use until May 1840. Aso, although the Twopenny post local post was merged with the General post after the introduction of the Penny Post on 10th January 1840, the name was retained until 1844, when it was named the London District Post.

    It is interesting that of the two postmarks, the octagonal date stamp of the type in use from 1838, is clearly dated January 29, 1840, so the writer, Mr. Woollett, had not checked his calendar when he wrote from Clements Lane in London.

    Research from the internet shows that Scadbury Park was also owned by the Sydney family.

    Clements Lane
    30 January 1840
    Dear Sir
    I shall feel obliged if Lord Sydney could favour me with a receipt for the Butt of Sherry sent to Frognall last July which I shall be happy to learn gives satisfaction.

    I hear from our late Servant Blacknman you have removed to Scadbury Park which you must find a much more agreeable Residence than our cottage.

    I beg my Respects to his Lordship,
    And remain
    Dear Sir
    Yours truly (??) Woollett
    (initials unclear)


    Earl Sydney had no children; thus on the death of his wife in 1893 his nephew, Robert Marsham, inherited Frognal on condition that he adopted the name and arms of the Townshends. He died without issue, and the title died with him.

    Sources: The Local Posts of London 1680-1840 George Brumell, and Alan Robertson’s Great Britain Post Roads Post Towns and Postal Rates 1635-1839

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