The Winter Villa<1>
Sunday Jany 29th 1860
My dear Henry
I promised to write to you from Melbury,<2> & am sorry I could not do as I intended – but though I actually began a letter, I was not able to finish it – for we were as busy as bees the whole time, seeing the curiosities, house, garden, church &c – But in the first place I must tell you how sorry I was to leave you all, & the mo[re]<3> so that I felt full of remorse for not having properly thanked you for the packet of Photographs – but you gave them to me just at the last minute; & I felt somehow bewildered, & remembered afterwards how ungracious I must have appeared. I shewed them to Uncle Wm<4> He admired them immensely & I presented him with two; the Door of San Giorgio Valladolid, & the distant view of Notre Dame.
You cannot think how delighted I was to see dear Melbury again – & to introduce Ernestine<5> to all the loved places & rooms I used to be so happy in my Childhood. We found the Brougham & comfortable fat coachman at Evershot – but I missed the Lion gates Sadly – tho’ the new way in is very handsome. In course of time Uncle Wm is going to make an avenue of Wellingtonias thro’ which the road will pass. I enjoyed my visit extremely – & so did Ernestine – both Uncle Wm & Ly I.<6> were so kind! The first evening one of her Sisters, a Mrs Hornby was there. (I did not care much about her, & was not sorry she went away next day –) also Captn Strangways R. A. who is quartered at Norwich – but had come down to see his father, who is very ill at Rewe. – It rained all Thursday – so we looked at the house & pictures, & numbers of old letters of Lady Sarah’s<7> & other’s, in Uncle Wm’s sittingroom. My impression is that the King was very much in love, & would have married her if she had not snubbed him. The next day I went over the Kitchen gardens & hothouses &c with the Gardner, while Ernestine drove in the ponychaise with Ly I. – I also walked down the dear old walk thro’ the valley, & up by the water; & saw the flower garden – where they are making great improvements. Uncle Wm is only allowed to be out from 11 till 2, when fine. He has given me various cuttings of Tydæa (beautiful things) Begonias, &c. That evening Ld Digby<8> arrived from Abbotsbury<9> – but there was no one else –
and it which I was glad of – as it gave me so much more time to enjoy myself. I was sorry however not to see Theresa, who was gone to Brickworth.<10> Yesterday morning there hounds met on the lawn just opposite the hall door – a very pretty sight – Ld Poltimore<11> is the master & has just brought his pack to hunt that part of the Country having married the daughter of Lady<12> Sheridan of Frampton,<13> He [?]<14> is very young – 23 about, & goodlooking.
After the hunters had departed [illegible deletion] we visited the church & saw the monument to Genl Strangways.<15> I like the inscription very much. We then went to the top of the tower with Mr Dickson the groom of the Chambers – the same, I suppose, who did the honours to Matilda.<16> He is a particularly nice sort of man, & told us all about Genl Strangway’s death. He lived with him as Soldier servant for nearly 20 years. He was close to him when he was shot, as he was in the act of giving orders for bringing up two guns – He told us too how much Genl Strangways was beloved by everyone – & that he died in his arms.
The old Charters you mentioned are excessively curious – Particularly Canute’s, before the foundation of the monastery, granting the lands to Ore – & another of K. Edgar’s with the date 965! I never saw anything so well mounted & preserved as they are, After lunch we posted, in the good old style, to Yeovil – but found that all our worldly goods had been sent to the other station, at the farther end of the Town – so we had to set off without them. However they all were sent on, free of charge, by the late Express; & were safely received today. The Country between Yeovil & Durston is flooded for miles & miles. The R.way is like a Chaussée<17> running thro’, & only just raised above, a vast expanse of water – You see the top rails of rates, & the heads of trees, rising here & there out of the waste of waters. I wonder if it froze at Lacock yesterday? In the morning the pond at Melbury was nearly covered with ice; but here there has been no frost since we went away – & i
ft feels today quite hot & muggy without a fire in the Drawg room – Tremendous rain all day till now – 5 o’clock, when it is getting bright & clear. I hope you are all well – give my best love a tutti quanti<18> –
& believe me yr affte Sister
1. Winter Villa, near Plymouth: estate of the Earls of Mt Edgcumbe.
2. Melbury, Dorset: one of the Fox Strangways family homes; WHFT was born there.
3. Obscured by seal.
4. William Thomas Horner Fox Strangways, 4th Earl of Ilchester (1795–1865), botanist, art collector & diplomat.
5. Ernestine Emma Horatia Edgcumbe (1843-1925), WHFT’s niece.
6. Lady Sophia Penelope Jolliffe, née Sheffield (1822-1882); first m. WTHF Strangways, 21 July 1857; second m. 1st Baron Hylton.
8. Edward St. Vincent Digby, 9th Baron Digby (1809–1889).
9. Abbotsbury, Dorset: home of William Thomas Horner Fox Strangways.
10. Theresa Anna Maria Digby, née Fox Strangways (1814–1874), WHFT’s cousin.
11. Brickworth House, Wiltshire, between Salisbury and Southampton, was owned by Lord Nelson. It had been the home of WHFT's recently deceased uncle, John George Charles Fox Strangways (1803- 8 Sep 1859), MP. His widow, Lady Amelia, née Marjoribanks (d. 1886), had been staying in London. In preparation for her return, the fireplaces were lit, and on the evening of 27 May 1860 a fire broke out. In spite of the efforts of the neighbors, the fire, fanned by high winds, destroyed nearly all of the stately home and its contents, except for the servant's quarters. Only some furniture was saved from the conflagration.
12. Obscured by seal.
13. Augustus Frederick George Warwick Bampfylde, 2nd Baron Poltimore (1837-1908). He had married Florence Sarah Wilhelmine, née Sheridan (d. 1909), daughter of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, MP, of Frampton Court, Dorset.
14. Obscured by seal.
16. Matilda Caroline Gilchrist-Clark, ‘Tilly’, née Talbot (1839–1927), WHFT’s 3rd daughter.
18. The whole group, i.e. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811–1880), WHFT’s wife; Ela Theresa Talbot (1835–1893), WHFT’s 1st daughter; Rosamond Constance ‘Monie’ Talbot (1837–1906), artist & WHFT’s 2nd daughter; Matilda; and Charles Henry Talbot (1842–1916), antiquary & WHFT’s only son.