Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Fortescues go to Bath

‘This has been a terrible wet day. Doctr Fraser was here, Fortescue has got a cough which he (Fraser) says will prevent his beginning the waters as soon as he otherways woud. We dined hearty & thank God are except him all well. No lodgings yet fix’d on so we are to pass this night here.’ This is Marianne Fortescue, born all of a quarter of a millenium ago today, writing in her diary about a tour from Ireland to Bath so that her husband, Matthew, could take the waters in the hope of a cure for gout. Although the Fortescue family had a long history in County Louth, and although the estate house built by Matthew, Stephenstown House still exists as a picturesque ruin, there is very little information available online about Marianne. Indeed, most of what we know about Marianne and Matthew comes from Marianne’s diary.

Marianne (Mary Anne) Fortescue, born on 17 May 1767, was the daughter of John McClintock, of County Louth, Ireland, MP for Enniskillen and Belturbet. On New Year’s Day 1787, she married Matthew Fortescue, a descendant of Faithfull Fortescue who had acquired lands after his Ireland adventures in the 17th century. The Fortescues had a house in Dublin and were there when the rebellion of 1798 broke out. Matthew also had built Stephenstown House in Louth in 1785 (which remained in the Fortescue family until the 1970s, though it fell into ruin in the 1980s - see Abandoned Ireland for photos). They had four children, according to the Fortescue Family Genealogy website. Marianne died in 1849.

The only reason Marianne is remembered today is because of a diary that she kept for some periods of her life. According to History of Knockbridge by Padraig O’Neill (1994) (extracts can be found at the Fortescue Family Genealogy website): ‘[In the diaries,] she gives details of life in Stephenstown, the rounds of parties and the visitors who were constantly coming and going. In that year she also gives an account of a journey she made with her husband to Bath because he suffered from gout. At that time it was a long coach journey to Dublin where they stayed until the weather and conditions at sea facilitated passage to England. She describes her journey through England - the wonderful bridges, tremendous hills, acqueducts and the Welsh ale. She also mentions seeing the coal-pits and a visit to Worcester where she described the china manufacture. She describes the treatment her husband received at the spa. The journey home from Bath to Stephenstown took three full days. She was in Dublin when the rising of 1798 took place and gives an account of the losses on both sides which were very exaggerated. She says that the North has remained calm and she returned to Stephenstown. There are many references to Lisrenny and Corbollis and dancing in Dundalk until four in the morning. In 1798 she states that the gentlemen at the county meeting in Louth were all unanimous against the Union. She gives a graphic description of a tragedy at sea when Captain Morton's vessel was wrecked at Haggardstown and all on board perished.’

Only two periods of her diary seem to be extant: 1797-1800 and 1816-1818. Very brief extracts can be found in Diaries of Ireland edited by Melosina Lenox-Conynghim (The Lilliput Press, 1998) - see Amazon for a preview. However, the diaries, as edited by Noel Ross, have also been published in full in the Journal of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society (available online at JSTOR, preview available, log-in required): Vol. 24 No. 2 (1998), Vol. 24 No. 3 (1999), Vol. 24 No. 4 (2000), Vol. 25 No. 2 (2002). Ross claims in his introduction that the diaries are important ‘as a local social document’. Here are several extracts concerning the Fortescues journey to Bath.

21 October 1797
‘We breakfasted & dined at the same hotel & at six o’clock in the eve’g all set out in a coach to go to Pier Head to Mr S. Page as we heard the Leister packet was to sail at twelve o’clock. We drank tea & supp’d with him. The children lay on a bed there from eight o’clock untill they were waked to go on board, which we all did at about half past twelve. It was a very dark, rainy, windy night. I was not the least bit frighten’d & remain’d quite free from sickness untill about five o’clock on Sunday morn’g the 22d. I was quite delighted between eight & nine at the sight of Holy Head. We had a very rough passage, every thing in the ship falling about & the waves dashing over us every moment. When we came to anchor we all got into the boat to get up to Jacksons House; it was raining very heavy on us, but we did not think much of that, as I was so delighted to get on shore We all breakfasted there and were very much delay’d after as we did not get off from that untill two o’clock.’

22 October 1797
‘Bangor. Here we arrived at eight o’clock in the eve’g. got very safely over the ferry & eat our dinner & all are well. We intend sleeping here.’

23 October 1797
‘Conway. A fine day. We breakfasted this morn’g at Bangor, the harpur was playing all the time. I liked it vastly & think the place very pretty. In comeing here we came over two dreadful! hills. Penmont Muir & Penmont Ross, the road was very rough. I walk’d up the first mention’d hill as I thought it quite tremendous. We came a short journey this day, only 17½ miles. There is a very beautiful old castle here which we walk’d out to see. Fortescue felt fatigued so we dined early, and will soon go to rest for this night.’

24 October 1797
‘Llangollen. A fine day. We breakfasted at eight o’clock this morn’g at Conway and arrived here at past six this eve’g. We came about forty six miles, about Llanwrst is wonderfully beautifull & hilly. We only pass’d thro’ it & had a superb view along the road for about six or seven miles, then it was excessive ugly to Kernioge. Between that & Corwen there was some parts beautifull and a most wonderfull high bridge & a tremendous hill. From Corwen to this place was truly beautifull, the road ran mostly along the banks of the Dee, and some places look’d quite dangerous as the bank was nearly perpendicular and above 200 feet above the river. Here we are to sleep & have dined. I like the Welsh ale. It threatens to rain this night heavy.’

25 October 1797
‘Shrewsbury. We left Llangollen at half past eight this morn’g & a very wet one it was. We got to Oswestry to breakfast at eleven. Between Llangollen and Oswestry there is a fine place of Mr Middletons Chirk Castle ’tis called & a very nice town just near it call’d Chirk. We pass’d two acqueducts & great canal works & had a view of the River Dee about half way, ’twas altogether excessively pretty. We left Oswestry a little past twelve & arrived here before four o’clock. We pass’d a beautifull rock at Nescliff, there were only a few cabins near it. We have only travell’d thirty miles this day. Fortescue complains of being a little tired. We have dined & are to sleep here.’

26 October 1797
‘Kidderminster. We left Shrewsbury at a quarter past eight, Fortescue not very well. The road from it to Cole brook dale is quite beautifull. It was so foggy a morning that we could not see much of Shrewsbury. It soon clear’d up & was very fine. There is a new iron bridge only about one month finish’d within a mile of Cole brook dale. It is amazelingly light looking, only one arch, it is pannell’d. The old one is very curious & handsome. Altogether ’tis a delightfull place. A vast quantity of wood along the road at one side & at t’other a river. We breakfasted at C.B. dale & left it a little after eleven. There is a tremendous hill just after passing the bridge & on top of it there are great iron works & coal pits. The next place we came to was Bridge North, it is a large town & an old castle leaning quite crooked, it suffer’d by Oliver Cromwell. We left that at two and arrived here at half past four. It is a very good looking town and a carpet manufacture carried on in imitation of Turkey. Here we dined & are to sleep. The bells have been ringing all the eve’g.’

27 October 1797
‘Gloucester. We left Kidderminster early this morn’g. It was very foggy but grew very fine before we got to Worcester. We were very much entertain’d walking about & looking at the china manufacture which is amazingly curious. We saw all the different processes & were much delighted with it - and the town is a very nice one. We saw some of the most beautifull china I ever beheld, one dinner sett came to 900 gs. We went into the Town Hall which is a great old building with pictures of kings & queens. We pass’d three hours in seeing all that & eating breakfast. We left that at half past one & drove to Tukesbury in a very short time. It seem’d a large town but made no delay there and only changed horses & came on here. There is an exceeding curious looking old church which we perceived out of the bed room window. We are to sleep here & have dined, we had stew’d lampreys, stakes & chops, the first mention’d dish has made me very sick.’

28 October 1797
‘Bath. We left Glocester this (very charming) morn’g a little after eight. We breakfasted at Rodboro’ at ten, it is a delightfull place, the country quite beautifull. There is a great manufacture carried on there of cloth & casimere, it look’d gay as possible & every soul seem’d busy. Nailsworth a place just near it is also delightfull. We left that before eleven and drove to Petty France which seem’d a poor little ugly place. The Duke of Beauforts Demesne just joins it, what we coud see of that over the wall appear’d handsome & grand plantations. We got chaises there and arrived here at half past three, we have eat our dinner at the White Lyon in Market Place. Fortescue consulted little Spry, he advised him to see Doctr Fraser. We intend sleeping here.’

29 October 1797
‘This has been a terrible wet day. Doctr Fraser was here, Fortescue has got a cough which he (Fraser) says will prevent his beginning the waters as soon as he otherways woud. We dined hearty & thank God are except him all well. No lodgings yet fix’d on so we are to pass this night here.’

6 November 1797
‘Fortescue has had no sympton this day of gout, however he seems a little better. He sat up till nine, but has not eat any meat these three or four days past. Matt seems still a little feverish. Anna & I are pretty well. We quit our lodgings in Argyle Buildings at about two o’clock this day & came to No. 7 Milsom Street & are very comfortably fix’d. Fanny dined with us: this day has been very fine. Fortescue went at one to the Pump Room in a chair & took a glass of water.’

9 November 1797
‘Fortescue is this day infinitely better, he got up early, so did I and walk’d to the Pump Room. There were not many there tho’ an uncommon fine day. He drank a glass of water & we were home at half past nine to breakfast. He has eat much heartier & I am in great hopes he is now in a fair way of recovering. He dined at home. J.F. & I dined at Mrs Fosters, there were just eight of us at dinner & about thirty came to cards in the eve’g. Jack came home to Fortescue before nine. I did not untill ten o’clock.’

10 November 1797
‘This has been a delightfull day. Fortescue is amazing well, he went before breakfast for his glass of water, eat his breakfast hearty after. Fanny call’d on me to walk. We all set out together, he & Jack went to market. Fanny & I to divert ourselves. We walk’d for a long time & went thro’ the Abbey Church which I liked very much. We dined before four. Fanny stay’d with us.’

13 November 1797
‘Nothing new this day. Fortescue certainly has got the gout in his foot, he has been in a good deal of pain. He went before breakfast to the Pumps in a chair & again at one o’clock. It has been a fine sunny day. it did not however tempt me out. The children & I are pretty well. I finish’d the Man of Destiny.’

16 November 1797
‘Fortescue vastly better this day but not quite free from gout, however no headache. It has rain’d & is a dirty day. I work’d & read all the morning & finish’d a long letter to my mother. & also finish’d Bridon’s Tour & was much entertain’d.’

25 December 1797
‘This has been a fine day but a great fog in the morning. I went to the Abbey Church & came home directly after. Fortescue has felt this day as if he had got cold, my head is not quite well yet. I got a letter from Eliza.’

30 December 1797
‘Another very Fine day. I have been idleing about all this day also, my cold still bad so did not stir this eve’g. Fortescue & the children are very well.’

The Diary Junction

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