Biographical Presentation (youtube)

The Office of Public Works has uploaded a new video, Lori Moriarty presenting on “The  Lives and Afterlives of the Ladies of Llangollen.”

A useful “primer” (lasting just over 49 minutes) for those who don’t know the “history” of Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby – known collectively as “the Ladies of Llangollen”. Also a decent “refresher” for those hoping to learn, or see (photos!), something new. Lori goes back to the earliest history, showing quotes and pictures, narrowing in at the starting point – unhappiness at home (especially for Sarah).

Thanks to LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN blog reader Eilís, for the heads up!

Chocolate Cups, monogrammed SP and EB

The British Museum has put several photographs of the above-mentioned Chocolate Cups (I prefer to think of them as “pots”) – but you have to dig to find (BM claims to have redesigned their website – and have broken links).

I’ve dug up the page that allows you a close-up look at the Ladies of LLangollen’s porcelain Chocolate Cups. They are enchanting!

Currently attributed to the DERBY Porcelain Factory (at least replacement pieces are so attributed). “The cups have previously been attributed to the Bristol China Manufactory, but they are not a known Bristol shape and the ceramic body does not resemble Bristol paste (information kindly supplied by Errol Manners, January 2018). One lid and one saucer made later as replacements.” One saucer has “EB” and the other “SP” (though this one more indistinct) under the “cup”. The twisted handles give the cups a bit of whimsy. And it is so easy to think of Sarah and Eleanor enjoying their hot chocolate, à la Fiordiligi and Dorabella (in Mozart’s opera Così fan tutte).

Collected Letters of Mary Blachford Tighe

Found while looking for something completely different: The Collected Letters of Mary Blachford Tighe, in an annotated edition edited by Harriet Kramer Linkin (Lehigh University Press).

The preview allows viewing of not only frontismatter, but also some of the letters! It is pricey (retails for $140 hardcover), so you may wish to take a long look before purchase. The book came out in August 2020.

The TIGHE name will be familiar to those who follow the Ladies of Llangollen. Strolling through the list of the 166 letters featured in the book, you will see letters to or from Sarah (Fownes) Tighe and Caroline (Tighe) Hamilton – very recognizable names from the HAMWOOD PAPERS of the Ladies of Llangollen and Caroline Hamilton.

[check out the Amazon Kindle preview for the first thirty letters in the table of contents]

From the publisher, about the book:

This annotated edition provides a revelatory glimpse into the life and mind of Ireland’s premier Romantic-era woman poet, Mary Blachford Tighe (1772-1810), author of PsycheVerses, and Selena. Although Tighe’s family burned most of her personal papers, 166 letters by and to her survived the flames, and are printed here for the first time. They offer rich insights into her thoughts and feelings about her writing, marriage, friendships, family, anxieties, aspirations, spirituality, politics, travels, and day-to-day activities, with beauty, poignance and wit. The letters written between 1786 and 1801 reveal stunning details about her complex relationship with her voyeuristic husband, about the years she spent in England developing her craft as a writer and acquiring her reputation as a much-admired beauty, and about the lived realities that ground the proto-feminist aesthetics of Psyche, the lyrics in Verses, and the narratives in Selena. The letters from 1802 through 1809 contain exceptional information about her reading habits and scholarly studies, resistance to publication, and friendships with other writers. The Collected Letters of Mary Blachford Tighe presents a rich archive of material that open up significant avenues for scholarship on Tighe: they document how actively she participated in her culture, shed autobiographical light on some of the least-known periods in her life, and illuminate her development as a poet and novelist.

Snow at Llangollen!

Emailed to me on Monday, January 25, 2021 – two highly atmospheric photographs of Llangollen. In the distance, Dinas Brân, under a truly beautiful sky, on its mountaintop.

And – of course – a photograph of Plas Newydd looking very wintery under its blanket of snow.

There’s something very inviting, seeing the dark woodwork and white facade peppered with snow on the roof and across the bushes and grass.

Lisette Davies, gardener at Plas Newydd, emailed these and is happy to share with you how the estate looked early this week. I’m hopeful that we will hear more from Lisette, as her plans and projects for the gardens of Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby begin taking shape!

Lisette is especially interested in hearing from anyone with hints or knowledge about the gardens of surrounding estates, like Chirk Castle or Erddig Hall. I have a suspicion, too, that Eleanor and Sarah potentially exchanged seeds, cuttings, ideas, and thoughts with people from farther afield — I’ve seen a great deal of garden “chatter” in letters between Smith family members.

Original Watercolor: Ladies of Llangollen

Currently (January 2021) for sale at “Karen Taylor Fine Art“, a lovely little depiction of the Ladies of Llangollen, by Lady Emily Dundas. There is a YouTube video, in which Karen Taylor speaks about the work and its artist.

Alas, the sale is marked only “enquire”, so I cannot tell you the asking price. As Taylor describes it, “It is not altogether kind [ie, flattering], but it is very well drawn and in sparkling condition.” Click on the picture to get to the website, the video, and an up-close of the portrait.

Of the artist, as mentioned in Taylor’s write-up, Lady Emily‘s death date is repeated over and again on the internet (died 1900), but not her birth date. Taylor finds she married in 1847 – such an old husband (born 1785) could have had an equally old second wife OR a bright young thing. In short, did Emily Dundas, née Reynolds-Moreton, actually MEET the Ladies of Llangollen?? Or, did she base her little work on existing prints – or her own imagination.

Identified as one of five daughter of the 1st Earl of Ducie – we find for him a life-span of 1776-1840; but more importantly a marriage in December 1797. Even if the four daughters were born one after the other, Emily would not have been born until around 1801, if not later. [see below, I find her next eldest sister, if correct, born in 1806!] Son Henry, (always easy to find the “heir”), was born in May 1802. _IF_ she met the Ladies, Emily would have been, at the far end, a young woman in her twenties

Taylor tells us that Lady Emily’s step-niece, Augusta “assembled the friendship album” from which this drawing came. Always stabs me in the heart when albums get disassembled, and sold piecemeal. More profitable, of course. A clue to “asking price” is the self-portrait of the artist — asking price £950. The self-portrait is CHARMING!



Addendum – the siblings of Lady Emily

eldest sister:
Lady Mary Reynolds-Moreton (1798-16 Dec 1842); married 1822 William 7th Earl of Denbigh

Henry Reynolds-Moreton (8 May 1802-2 Jun 1853)

Hon. Augustus Henry Moreton Macdonald of Largie (24 Jun 1804-14 Feb 1862)

third daughter:
Lady Charlotte Reynolds-Moreton (1806-1881); married 1834 Maurice 1st Baron FitzHardinge

Hon. Percy Reynolds-Moreton (18 Jun 1808-15 Mar 1886)

fourth daughter [younger or older than Percy, born 1808?]:
Lady Emily Reynolds-Moreton (d. 1900); married 1847 Adm. Sir James Dundas

youngest sister:
Lady Catherine Reynolds-Moreton (1815-1892); married 1841 John Raymond-Barker [his daughter Augusta (1827-1900) assembled the friendship album]


from The Ladies of Llangollen

I will take the opportunity to say to readers of “The Ladies of Llangollen,” Happy New Year and welcome to 2021.

Auction results (I rarely FIND the items when they are up-for-sale) often turn out to be treasure. I always welcome searches that turn up tidbits that I hadn’t known about. This is an interesting *find*.

Found on “WorthPoint” (no, I have no subscription), this book was evidently once for sale on eBay. The title: “THE LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN – INSCRIBED PRESENTATION COPY OF CHARLOTTE SMITH”.

  • (AN ASIDE: How is it, if I buy an eBay item, it ends up on WorthPoint, forever; if I miss out buying an item, and I’d like to FIND the old ad forever, it’s never listed there?? Can’t be price because I’ve missed out on some items that went for a great deal. of money)

The book, by Charlotte Smith, is Rural Walks: In Dialogues. Intended for the Use of Young Persons. It is inscribed as being from Lady Eleanor and Miss Ponsonby for a list of PARKER family members. The curious thing: Why is it dated “about 1810 or 12”?? I suspect the inscription was made at a later date, by someone after the initial gift, who was trying to recall from whom and to whom. Therefore, not inscribed by Lady Eleanor or Sarah Ponsonby. Pity…

I will agree that it’s a “remarkable” association copy. [click on the picture to see all the images of the book]

I’ve no clue as to the date of this eBay sale, but as WorthPoint seems the only source now, it’s probably been a while. (eBay makes it tough, somewhat “quickly” to find OLD sales.) No clue either as to the “auction” price.

The “ad” identifies “THE PARKERS: It seems clear that the Parkers to whom the book was presented were the children of Thomas Netherton Parker and Sarah Parker of Sweeney Hall, Oswestry, Shropshire, just 12 miles distant from Llangollen. The Parkers were friends, visitors and correspondents of the Ladies for many years.”

The identity of the children (also from the ad):

  • “T.B. Parker,” is, we believe, Thomas Browne Parker, the eldest son of Thomas and Sarah (née Browne), who died in 1833, aged 36.
  • Second on the list (“J.”) is John, the future Rev. John Parker (1798-1860), vicar of Llanyblodwel, dean of Llangollen, and amateur botanist, architect and artist, with over a thousand drawings in the National Library of Wales.
  • The fourth name (“E.S.”) is the Parkers’ daughter Elizabeth Sarah, who authored a “small work” of verse, A Poesy of Divinity (1845), and in later life became a recluse and purportedly Dickens’ model for the character of Miss Havisham.
  • But it is the third name, “M. Parker”, that is particularly noteworthy. This is MARY PARKER, the future Lady Le…..

And there WorthPoint cuts off the original ad!

In looking up Mary daughter of Thomas Netherton Parker, one finds she married Sir Baldwyn Leighton, but how the sentence concluded, I do not know.

A short article in the Shropshire Star, in slightly debunking the myth that Elizabeth Sarah Parker might have inspired Dickens, Linda Fletcher (archivist, Newport History Society) repeats the story she doesn’t believe: That Elizabeth Sarah became a recluse after being jilted by her lover, Sir Baldwyn Leighton. But didn’t he marry her sister… Tale becomes interesting, but veers off topic.

Sarah Ponsonby’s Diary

The website CURIOUS TRAVELLERS has posted an annotated version of “Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, Account of a Journey in Wales; Perform’d in May 1778 by Two Fugitive Ladies“.

The diary opens on May 10th, with the words: Arrived at Haking —

Follow the duo, as they sail across Milford Haven to commence their journey to Llangollen.

One of the few primary materials penned by Sarah Ponsonby that remains, it’s original archive entry at the National Library of Wales may be found here.

For the transcription of “Two Fugitive Ladies,” click on the picture (below):

In the Grounds Plas Newydd

While at the site, check out other “historical” tours, of Wales and of Scotland (same link serves for all tours). The Welsh tours include Katherine Plymley (“Journey to Anglesey,” 1792) and Anne Lister (“Tour of North Wales”, 1822); as well, of course, the Butler/Ponsonby tour.

A focus for the website is THOMAS PENNANT. You will enjoy his letters as much as the tours.

Fascinating Information: Ladies of Llangollen

As part of the SUBLIME WALES website, Michael Freeman has crafted an intricate and fascinating LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN site.

Ladies of Llangollen_website

Great detail is given to subjects like SOURCES and PORTRAITS. Some fabulous *finds* in images, items not seen or at least not collected together.

Additionally, work on the material itself yields a TON of new information, from GUESTS (alpha or by year) to ACCOUNTS. I know first-hand how tedious it is to note costs of things, but when you’re able to SEE how much hair powder cost, or the average price of postage or a horse, a comb or a pair of shoes, it really does uncover some incredible information.

Of course WHAT is associated most with the Ladies of Llangollen, but their house – Plas Newydd – and their neighorhood and (of course!) Llangollen itself. You’ll find links for subjects as diverse as the “wood” decorations of Plas Newydd to contents of its library. (Yeah, BOOKS!)

One of the “hooks” that grabbed ME when I first visited Llangollen, and learned the tiniest history of Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby was the IDEA of spending time just reading and learning. Oh, so beautiful an idea for LIVING LIFE.

You will find MUCH (and check back for MORE) to interest you on the entire site “Sublime Wales”, but special _SHOUT OUT_ must be reserved for the pages dealing with _our_ subjects: The Ladies of Llangollen!

Hamwood House

Anyone reading about the Ladies of Llangollen – Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler – sooner rather than later come across the book published in 1930 entitled The Hamwood Papers of the Ladies of Llangollen and Caroline Hamilton.

hamwood dust

The Hamwood estate, “Historic House and Gardens,” opens to visitors April to September. But you can “visit” it via its website any time you please!

Hamwood House

Unfortunately, much of the web-history of Hamwood follows the men of the estate, so make sure to click on HAMWOOD LADIES for the more satisfying run-down of their influence and history. A charming portrait of Caroline Hamilton on that page just might entice everyone to seek out The Hamwood Papers. In the past, there have been well-priced copies; the market fluctuates. It can be a bit of a search – though well worth it, as the book includes much primary material, especially the diary entries of Eleanor Butler.

You can find MORE published items under BIBLIOGRAPHY, on this blog, including links to those that have been uploaded to this site. “Hover” over the word bibliography in the links along the top for pieces such as the chapter on the Ladies of Llangollen in E. Owen Blackburne’s Illustrious Irishwomen. Same links run down the right-side of the screen.

Hamwood is located in County Meath, Ireland. As the picture above shows, the house is quite handsome from the exterior.


Anne Lister at The National Archives

When this blog existed as a website (many years ago), I had posted some of Anne Lister’s comments, as one of the Visitors to the Ladies of Llangollen at Plas Newydd. I never re-linked all of the extended pages. Of course Anne’s own words can be read in the book I Know My Own Heart (edited by Helena Whitbread; 1988).

An extract is listed, with thanks to Michael in Aberystwyth, in A Plas Newydd Timeline, which features visitor and other comments from the 1780s to the 1830s and beyond. Hover over the menu link (above) for a drop down menu, by date. Anne Lister’s comments are under ‘1820-1824‘; she visited Llangollen in the summer of 1822.


With the popularity of the TV series Gentleman Jack, featuring Suranne Jones as Anne Lister, The National Archives, in Kew, have blogged about their holdings of Lister-related documents.

I will do as they did – and say SPOILER ALERT! – for anyone finding their way here because of the TV series. We deal with the inevitable ‘end,’ for TNA holds the handwritten wills of Anne Lister and Ann Walker. Their blog post will also ‘catch you up’ on some of the backstory, Anne’s years before Gentleman Jack.

Anne Lister

A caveat to keep in mind, not specifically mentioned in TNA’s blog post: At the time, if a woman married her property became the property of her husband. In leaving Ann Walker Shibden Hall for her lifetime, Anne Lister would NOT have wanted the property to devolve to anyone Ann Walker decided to share her own wealth with.

  • (A marriage settlement might have stipulated, if both parties agreed, to separate out the property. But who would take that chance?)

I have a couple of old wills, original wills, related to my research of the family of Emma Austen and Mary Smith. Folded, they look JUST LIKE those pictured in TNA’s blog! It’s thrilling to see Anne and Ann’s ‘last wishes’ represented, and to know The National Archives has such a cache of originals (probated wills are my bête noire; some are horrible to decipher due to the hand used, and swirls inserted to cover ‘blank’ space; while microfilm also does them NO favor).

I believe the link the blog provides – going to PROB 11, whereby you can purchase (for £3.50) a PDF download, rather than PROB 10 – brings you to the PROBATED copy, not the original of Ann Walker’s will. The blog does provide one photograph (alas: can’t enlarge it!) of a section of Anne Lister’s will.

Like my own research materials at The National Archives, other items exist because of a dispute. You will be amazed over the “end” of the story…

Note also their link to the DIGITAL copies of Anne Lister’s diaries, online (since April 2019) at West Yorkshire Archive.

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