This short article first appeared in Cirencester Miscellany No 2 in 1991, page 14
A Cirencester connection in Life with the Ladies of Llangollen
‘The Ladies’ were Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, who had eloped ‘on a spring night in 1783 causing consternation to their Irish families and affording smart society with gossip for many years to come’. They set up house together at Plas Newydd in the remote village of Llangollen in North Wales.The record of their once doubtfully regarded relationship was first brought to public notice by Mrs G.H. Bell with the publication of the Hamwood Papers in 1930. The following extracts, written by Eleanor, are taken from Life with the Ladies of Llangollen, compiled and edited by Elizabeth Mavor (published by Viking in 1984).
Tuesday 17 February 1789
“Lever, the gardener of Chirk Castle, came with Kendal the carpet man, as we desired. We have not seen Kendal these nine years; he was the first person from whom we had carpets, a plain sensible man. Vrai Anglais. Lives in Cirencester in Gloucestershire, deals most extensively in Carpets, Cyder, etc., an honest plain Yeoman, a character I revere. Ask’d him how the County of Gloucester stood affected as to Politics. He, as freeman of Gloucester, voted for Mr Howard. Said that at first the people wished for Pitt and approved his measures, but now they begin to murmur and think he treats the Prince of Wales very ill. The King showed symptoms of insanity before he came to Gloucestershire. When Lord Berkeley heard that Cheltenham was proposed he waited on His Majesty to make an offer of Berkeley Castle for his residence. The King on hearing Lord Berkeley was in the antechamber ran out to him saying: ‘What Berkeley, Berkeley, Berkeley’. When his Lordship informed him for what purpose he waited on him the King laughed like an Idiot and repeated ‘Oh, Aye, Aye, Berkeley Castle, Berkeley Castle, Berkeley Castle’, and retired to his apartment without giving any other answer. Lord Berkeley told this to Mr Vernon. The profusion of Cyder this year is not to be described.”
Saturday 5 September 1789
“Carpets and cheese from Kendal, not the least resembling the pattern we bespoke which was a Modest Blue tinged with Black – these have every fiery tawdry Colour in Worsted, green and blue – Red and purple and yellow – huge roses and Tulips and poppies Sprawling about – the Cheese which We particularly ordered might be the best (Berkeley hundred) proves no better than a Common Gloucester. Mem: never again deal with Mr Kendal for any Article Whatsoever.
Also by Elizabeth Mavor:
“The Ladies of Llangollen”: a study in romantic friendship (1971).
“A Year with the Ladies of Llangollen” (1984) – an edited selection of entries from their journals, letters and account books.