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Posts Tagged ‘Duke of Wellington’

apsley house

“The last time! a going! gone.”
“Auctioneer.

“Down! down! derry down!”
“Public.

A toll-gate was moved in 1721 from Piccadilly, near Berkeley Street and the present location of the Ritz Hotel, to the west end of Hyde Park in London. It was a real barrier, its gates stretching across the road, and the area was illuminated by a dozen oil lamps before the age of gas. (London, Vol 1, Charles Knight) After passing through the toll, the first building travelers encountered was “Number One”, London, or Apsley House. The residence was named after Baron Apsley, who built the house in 1771. Its most famous and recognizable resident was The Duke Of Wellington. Hyde Park Corner tollgate was one of the busiest tollgates in London, and remained active until 1825, when it was dismantled piece by piece and sold.

Hyde Park Corner, 1822, Charles Cranmer Jr

Sir,
I have taken the liberty of enclosing you a representation of a scene which took place at Hyde-park-corner last Tuesday, October 4th, being no less than the public sale of the toll-house, and all the materials enumerated in the accompanying catalogue. If you were not present, the drawing I have sent may interest you as a view of the old toll-house and the last scene of its eventful history. You are at liberty to make what use of it you please. The sale commenced at one o’clock, the auctioneer stood under the arch before the door of the house one the north side of Piccadilly. Several carriage folks and equestrians, unconscious of the removal of the toll, stopped to pay, whilst the drivers of others passed through knowingly, with a look of satisfaction at their liberation from the accustomed restriction at that place. The poor dismantled house without a turnpike man, seemed “almost afraid to know itself”—”Othello’s occupation was gone.” By this time, if the conditions of the auction have been attended to, not a vestige is left on the spot. I have thought this event would interest a mind like yours, which permits not any change in the history of improvement, or of places full of old associations, to take place without record.

I remain, sir,
Yours, &c.
A CONSTANT READER.

sale of hyde park corner toll gate

These entries come from the October 4th Every-Day Book by William Hone, 1825-26,. The following account relates the dismantling of the property:

The sale by auction of the “toll-houses” on the north and south side of the road, with the “weighing machine,” and lamp-posts at Hyde-park-corner, was effected by Mr. Abbott, the estate agent and appraiser, by order of the trustees of the roads. They were sold for building materials; the north toll-house was in five lots, the south in five other lots; the gates, rails posts, and inscription boards were in five more lots; and the engine-house was also in five lots. At the same time, the weighing machine and toll-houses at Jenny’s Whim bridge were sold in seven lots; and the toll-house near the bun-house at Chelsea, with lamp posts on the road, were likewise sold in seven lots. The whole are entirely cleared away, to the relief of thousands of persons resident in these neighbourhoods. It is too much to expect every thing vexatious to disappear at once; this is a very good beginning, and if there be truth in the old saying, we may expect “a good ending.”

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The Duke of Wellington, the much decorated general who defeated Napoleon twice and who, to many in the era, defined the British character, still had to answer a flurry of petty questions generated by bureaucrats in London. The following is a letter he wrote to the National Office in 1812 in response to some trifling expenses for which he was held accounted:

Gentlemen,

Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.

Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as the the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:

1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or perchance.

2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

Your most obedient servant,

Wellington

Update: While I try to link to resources directly (see link list below), at times I can find no attributions or a source. I found this letter on a fun fact site and had no initial reference to point to. If you will note, this blog largely consists of a series of links to other sites of interest, especially in the pages at top. In addition, as with David Brass Rare Books, I receive their permission to write about their publications and use certain images PROVIDED I make no money off the enterprise and make certain that I mention David Brass Rare Books prominently in my posts. I also try to use e-text quotes and images that are in the public domain (Wikimedia Commons), or to quote no more than a paragraph from books that are copyrighted. Publishers that have asked me to review their books have given me permission to use images of their book covers and use quotes. When I am reviewing a blog post (as in my Seen Over the Ether post), I will use an identifying image from that post.

Other links:

Image: William Heath, A Wellington Boot – or Head of the Army.

Portrait of the Duke by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), 1814.

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