An extract from 'The Sporting Magazine' of 1827 ( I am grateful to Alan Poole, of Dovedale Road for sending this article. (Ed))
John Lawrence, a correspondent of the journal writes;
I have not been much loco-motive of late, but I have at last managed to spend part of two days with my good friend David Marjoribanks, Esq. at his residence, Knights Hill Cottage, Dulwich *, where every thing shews health, and comfort, and convenience, where one might fancy oneself a hundred or two of miles from London. There it was, where that surly old chuff, but able and honest lawyer, Lord Thurlow, spent five and twenty of the happiest years of his life. We walked in the noble Lord's favourite and constant walk, and, if I recollect aright, sat in the very same room where the Chancellor telling the poor parson, an old school fellow, he should have the requested living, his reverence, heart-full exultingly exclaimed - "Shall I, by God?" - to which the Chancellor's ready response was - "Yes, you shall, by God!" - I was so fortunate to meet Mr Cooper ** at the cottage, respected for his companionable qualities, as well as for those which distinguish him in his profession. He was putting his last hand to the portrait of 'Richard', a fine specimen of the painter's art, and which certainly loses nothing of its sterling merit by being a correct likeness.......Mr M., with plenty of garden ground for useful and ornamental purposes, has forty or fifty acres of excellent meadow- land for horses or sheep. The air is soft and salubrious, and the views cheerful and pleasant. As I paced alone and musing "so blithesome o'er the dewy mead," I said to myself, why, barring unfortunate or fortunate break-neck accidents, might not a man, on a spot like this, reach the patriarchal age of those old codgers, whose memoirs and familiar days have been handed down to us in a style and manner so delectably amusing? - taking into the account moreover, that their reckoning differed from ours, inasmuch as their years are supposed to have tallied in point of time with our months. I then suddenly came nearer home in my cogitations, fixing on the era of our "merry Monarch, scandalous and poor," and of Rochester, whose wit and satiric powers cannot redeem his memory from the stain of immorality and a want of principle. Who but we, who delight to delve in the stale and musty gossip of History, now recollect Dulwich was, in those days, a famous watering place? - what or where the water was, I cannot conjecture; and that London hebdomadaly poured out its myriads to replenish this proximate and convenient Spa? - Joe Haines *** among the rest, from Saturday to Monday, to purge off his metropolitan impurities.... I am, however, not quite in order; for the truth is, I visited 'Richard' in the first instance, as well may be expected; and the good-natured animal received me, as he ought to receive an old and true lover of the horse. For colour, and form, and bone, he recalled to my remembrance the 'Devonshire Surly' (by Blank) of my early days. This 'Richard' was a stout and true runner, honest and of excellent temper; and as our turf has long been in want of a real kill-devil, to afford us some variety, and the opportunity of looking wise by setting us a wondering, surely he is fit as any stallion of the day to initiate such a phenomenon. But it must be out of a proper mare and - oh that I could have the selecting of such a one on my own account. I was too late to see many of the mares and foals; but I observed a forward filly, well formed, and with particular good substance in the thighs and forearms. - This horse has been very successful this season, and the balance of his account of profit and loss stands boldly on the right side. Exclusive of his bred stock, I apprehend that Surrey, Kent and Middlesex will anon have to thank 'Richard' for some capital hunting, hackney, and coaching stock. Knights Hill has plenty of yard room, stabling, and sheds, with good water near at hand, and its proprietor seems to enter into the spirit of the whole with the energy of a true lover of the horse.
* Lord Thurlow's cottage was Knights Hill Farm on the west side of Dulwich Common.
** Abraham Cooper (1787-1868), battle and animal painter who was a contributor to the Sporting Magazine from 1811. He provided 189 subjects which were engraved in the magazine. Between 1812-1868/9 Cooper exhibited 332 pictures at the Royal Academy.
*** Probably Joe (Joseph) Haines (d. 1701) actor and writer. His satiric style of writing sometimes landed him in trouble. He was also continually hounded by his creditors.
The article is interesting because it provides local evidence of the enthusiasm for horse racing and hunting which were such popular pursuits in Georgian England. There were frequent hunts in an around Dulwich as Joseph Romilly (1791-1864), a near neighbour of David Marjoribanks, records in his diary which he kept while living at The Willows, Dulwich Common 1820-37, the very period of the article in The Sporting Magazine. Romilly tells us that in 1831 he went to watch a stag hunt at the Beaulah Spa- "Margaret and I were nearly rode over by the hunt near the turnpike. The hunt galloped over the Common by our house."
Alderman Thomas Wright
Thomas Wright built Bell House in College Road in 1767. Recently I discovered some references concerning him in the Guildhall, Library. Among a folder of papers were prints of a portrait of Wright who died in 1798 aged 75, and his wife Ann who died in 1809 aged 82.
Thomas Wright was a fabulously wealthy wholesale stationer who had started as a humble apprentice or servant in the warehouse in which he afterwards became master. It is possible that he married his master's daughter! The warehouse was in Abchurch Lane near St. Paul's. Wright went into partnership with a Mr. Gill who later became his brother-in-law. Curiously, both were Aldermen and both became Lord Mayors of London. They were the same age and were buried in the same vault, one a fortnight or three weeks after the other. Their business partnership lasted fifty years. Thomas Wright's coat of arms includes the use of gules in order to acknowledge the Gill association.
Wright and Gill were approachable businessmen, talking in a young lad, Richard Dalton, who had come to London from Wigtown, Cumberland as an employee. They were so satisfied with the lad that they later made him a partner in the company which after Wright's death also included four brothers named Key who had bought up the vast stock. Dalton lived at Camberwell Green, and the eldest of the Key brothers lived on Denmark Hill and was a in the commission of the peace for the county of Surrey.
Wright was chosen alderman in 1779, was Sheriff in 1780 and Mayor in 1785-6. The following is an account of installation as Sheriff.
Yesterday morning the two new Sheriffs, viz. Aldermen Wright and Pugh, went in their carriages to Stationers -Hall, where they breakfasted, and afterwards proceeded with the Master, wardens and Court of assistants of the said Company to Guildhall, where they were sworn into their offices, with the usual formalities. Their chariots were very elegant. The livery of Alderman Wright is a superfine orange-coloured cloth, richly trimmed with silver; Alderman Pugh's is a superfine green cloth, with a rich broad gold lace, and both make a grand appearance as any Sheriffs have for several years.
The old and new Sheriffs returned from the Hall to the Paul's-Head Tavern, Cateaton- Street when, according of annual custom, the keys of the different jails were delivered to the new Sheriffs, and they were regaled with walnuts and sack by the Keeper of Newgate.
After the ceremony at Guildhall, the Sheriffs &c. returned to Stationers Hall where an elegant dinner was provided by Mr. Sheriff Wright. The whole was conducted with the utmost propriety, and was the better attended than any feast given on a similar occasion, there being sixteen Alderman present besides the Sheriffs.
A Correspondent has favoured us with the following description of the painting on the new Sheriff's chariot: Mr. Alderman Wright's - 'Liberty, in a fitting posture, with her rod in one hand, and her other on the Roman faces, while a little-winged Genius is presenting her with a code of laws.'
Another newspaper cutting dated 1785 in the file states;
Mr. Alderman Wright, the present Mayor of London, is said to have property in the 3 per cents, to the amount of near £180,000. The very interest of this sum exceeds the Prince of Wales actual income! And independent of it, Mr. Wright's profits in his trade, as a stationer, are supposed to be very little short of it!
Thomas and Ann Wright, their daughter Ann who married Mr. John Willis of Belair, Gallery Road, are all buried at Wynandisbury Church, near Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire. At his death Thomas Wright left the immense sum of £400,000.