Arthur Griesdale caught with his ‘breeches unbuttoned’

Posted: January 7, 2014 in History
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

By the mid-1740s Arthur Griesdale, in partnership with his brother Francis and his cousin Robert, had established himself as a prosperous lace and linen merchant in the Holborn and Ludgate Hill areas of London. The family had a large warehouse, and Arthur built himself an out of town house in Wanstead in Essex. Arthur wanted to establish his bona fides as a Gentleman, albeit one who had made his money in ‘trade’, anathema to the indolent aristocracy of Georgian England. He approached the College of Arms and, helped no doubt by a large fee; he got the College to grant him a coat of arms and a crest.

Ludgate Hill

Ludgate Hill

Arthur was born in Barnsley in Yorkshire in 1704; his father being a ‘Gentleman’ also called Arthur. In 1721, his father, by now living in Sheffield, paid £40 to get a seven year apprenticeship for 17 year-old Arthur with ‘Master Baker’ Thomas Price in London. As was usual, the indenture had him promise to follow the rules of the Baker’s Guild, including the stipulation not to fornicate during his apprenticeship! Maybe he followed this rule, though given his later proclivities I think it doubtful.

Perhaps Arthur finished his apprenticeship as a baker, perhaps he didn’t. We don’t know. What we do know is that probably not too long afterwards he started working with his Yorkshire-born brother Francis and cousin Robert in the drapery or haberdashery trade. Perhaps this was the trade in which Arthur and Francis’s father had made his money in Barnsley and Sheffield? Certainly both these places were early centres of linen weaving. Although the three young men were born in Yorkshire, there is no doubt that despite the unusual spelling of their name they were descended from the Grisdales of Cumberland, and in all likelihood from the Matterdale Grisdales (though perhaps by a tortuous route). In a book published in 1749 by the Somerset Herald, John Warburton, regarding ‘the Nobility, Principal Merchants and Other Eminent Families’ of London and Middlesex, we find Arthur’s coat of arms described:

Griesdale. Merchant. Ermin on a Bend engrailed Azure, between a Dolphin in Chief and an Anchor, twisted with a Rope in Base, three Crosses florry or.

The Herald then goes on to say:

These arms are the Right of Arthur Griesdale, of London, Merchant, descended of an ancient Family of that Name in Cumberland, as may be seen in Coll. Amor. Lib 1X. Mag. Regist.

We also know that Arthur’s crest was: ‘A dexter hand fesseways couped and frilled, holding a sword in pale ppr.’

St. Andrew's Holborn

St. Andrew’s Holborn

One day I’ll try to visit the College of Arms and look at the Cumberland genealogy Arthur presented, but his Cumberland ancestry is clear. At this time, particularly when people moved, the spelling of family names was very fluid, often being determined by priests at baptism. While Arthur was named Griesdale at his baptism, his brother Francis was called Grisdaile and his cousin Robert’s father Robert was said to be Grissdall. Later also (but still in the 1700s) members of the family were often called Grisdell, Grisdaile and Grisdale.

Having established himself as a ‘laceman’ and linen merchant, Arthur married Sarah Maryat and 6 July 1742 in St. Andrews Church in Holborn. He was said to be a resident of St. Stephen’s, Walbrook (near the Bank of England in the City of London). In the same year we also find Arthur’s brother Francis in partnership with Benjamin Baddiley in St. Andrew’s, Holborn. I believe this is where the brothers had started their business.

Over the coming years we find repeated references to Arthur, Francis and Robert as ‘lacemen’ and linen merchants in and around Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill and Farringdon. On 26 December 1758 ‘a fire broke out in the warehouse of Mr Garsed, a haberdasher, on Ludgate Hill, which entirely consumed the same, and damaged Mr Grisdale’s…’

St. Bride's Church in Fleet Street

St. Bride’s Church in Fleet Street

In 1743 Arthur and Sarah had a child called Arthur, but he died. The next year another son, also called Arthur, followed. He survived. In 1745 a Henry Griesdale was born, but he too died the next year. In 1747 a son Robert was born and died. All Arthur’s children were baptized (and buried) in St. Bride’s Church in Fleet Street.

In September 1755, Arthur was able to afford to send his one surviving son, Arthur, to Eton College, where he was to remain for three years. But I believe that possibly before this Arthur’s wife Sarah had died. Why? Let me now tell the story I want to tell. Arthur was a successful self-made man with gentlemanly pretensions (and why not), but he was also a man. In March 1753 the House of Lords sat and considered the case of ‘Nuthall’s Divorce Bill’:

The order of the day being read, for the second reading of the bill, intituled, “an act to dissolve the marriage of Thomas Nuthall  Gentleman with Lucy Scott his now wife; and to enable him to marry again; and for other purposes therein mentioned;” and for hearing counsel for and against the same.

Counsel were accordingly called in. A Mr Williams appeared as counsel for the Bill, but no counsel appeared on behalf of Mrs Nuthall. It was established by Samuel Holland that notice of the proceeding had been given to Mrs Nuttall. Holland stated ‘that on the 26th of February last, he served Mrs. Nuthall with the order of this House, at Palgrave in Suffolk; and at the same time delivered her a copy of the bill: And that she said, “She would not make any opposition to the bill.”’ He later testified that he knew ‘Mr. Nuthall and his wife; and that they cohabited together many years; but never had any child, as he has ever heard’.

Next, a Richard Williams ‘produced a copy of an entry in the register book of marriages belonging to the parish of Saint Peter of Mancroft in the City of Norwich, which he examined with the said register book; and also a certificate, signed by Charles Clarke Minister, that he examined it with the said register book, and that the same is a true copy…. The said entry and certificate were read; whereby it appeared, that the said Thomas Nuthall  intermarried with Lucy Scott, the 12th of October 1736′.

And it is here we first hear about Arthur Griesdale.

A servant called Jane Hill was called ‘in order to prove the Criminal Conversation between Arthur Griesdale and Mrs. Nuthall’. Hill testified that ‘she went to live as a servant to Mrs Nuthall in the year 1753, and continued in her service about three months, till the 12th of June in that year; and then; by Mrs. Nuthall’s recommendation, went to live in Mr Griesdale’s service, and continued in his service till May 1754, and then went away for about three months; and in August following lived a month at his house’. She then gave ‘an account of many indecent familiarities between Mr. Griesdale and Mrs. Nuthall’. She told how in September 1753 she had come and stayed at Griesdale’s house in Wanstead in Essex, ‘while Mr. Nuthall was gone into Norfolk’.

She used to put Mrs. Nuthall to bed; and Mrs. Nuthall has sent her to Mr. Griesdale, to tell him she was in bed; and that Mr. Griesdale has gone up to her bed-chamber, and been alone with her when she was in bed; and that she has often seen Mr. Griesdale either sitting upon the bed, or lying upon it in his night gown and slippers, when Mrs. Nuthall has been in bed; and seen his hand round her neck, and upon her breasts

She elaborated more regarding the ‘indecent familiarities between them’ at Griesdale’s house when Nuthall had ‘gone out of town, which he frequently did’. Another servant called Margaret Betton then testified ‘to the same point’. Margaret also told of the ‘indecent Familiarities between Mr. Griesdale and her Mistress, when Mr. Griesdale has come and stayed at Mr. Nuthall’s house at Layton Stone… when Mr. Nuthall has been gone from home to Enfield Chace (sic) about business, as he often did’.

On a Sunday in August 1754, she (Margaret Betton) went with her mistress to Mr. Griesdale’s House at Wanstead, where they stayed all night; and, wanting to speak with her mistress in the evening, she went up to the room which was called her bed room, which had two doors to it; she found the door she went to fastened, but heard persons in the room; and, upon her mistress opening the door, as she was going into the room, she saw Mr. Griesdale go out of the other door, with his breeches unbuttoned, and holding them up with his hands; and that evening she told Miss Spackman and Jane Hill what she had seen.

Here we are at a time when the British involvement in the War of the Austrian Succession was just over and the Seven Years War was about to begin, a war that secured North America for the British. And what do we find? Just normal life and a bit of a bedroom farce with doors opening and closing! I wonder if Arthur’s young son heard any of this? The proceeding of the Lords continued with more witnesses and statements, confirming the ‘indecent familiarities’ as well as the fact that Mr and Mrs Nuthall were now living apart.

About June 1755, Mr. Nuthall removed his goods from his house at Layton Stone, and left Mrs. Nuthall; and that she took a lodging for a few weeks in Saint Paul’s Church Yard, and then went into the country, where she has lived ever since; and that Mr. Nuthall has not cohabited with her, or had access to her, since the 1st of August 1755…

Mr Nuthall got his divorce.

Arthur continued with his business and moved it to 8 Huggins’ Lane in Wood Street (Little Britain) in the City of London. He even went bankrupt in 1774 while in partnership with George Jackson, but he was obviously able to pay off his creditors because he was still a ‘linen draper’ in Little Britain when he died in 1786 aged eighty-two.

Walton Canonry Salisbury

Walton Canonry Salisbury

Unfortunately Arthur’s Eton educated son Arthur had died in 1767 aged just 22, and so Arthur left much of his not inconsiderable fortune to friends, servants and to the family of his younger brother Francis. Francis too had made some decent money in the lace and linen trade. He had married into a prosperous family called Scott from Hampshire. His wife was Frances Cox, whom he married in St. Andrew’s in Holborn in 1740. But unlike his brother Francis with the money he had made, and no doubt with the money of his wife, he decided to leave his business in London sometime before 1750 and retire to the quiet life in Salisbury in Wiltshire, taking with him his London-born daughter Mary, who would marry into the very interesting and wealthy Swiss Agassiz family (see here). Another son called Harry (Henry Thomas) was born in Salisbury in 1750 and lived till 1838. In The Music and Theatre of Handel’s World – The Family Papers of James Harris, we can read:

Griesdale, Frances. The wife of Peter (sic) Griesdale of Salisbury, her maiden name was Cox and she came from Quarley, Hants. In the 1760s the Griesdales lived at Walton Canonry in the Close as tenants of Dr William Dodwell; there are frequent references to them in the Harris correspondence and also in Marsh’s journal, where ‘Mr Grisdell’ is described in July 1776 as ‘an elderly get’n & great musical amateur, tho’ no performer’ and their purchase of ‘a new grand piano of Stoddart’s’ is noted February 1779. Signatures: Fran Griesdale and Fran Griesdale.

Francis died in Salisbury in 1789. I’ll return to Arthur Griesdale’s roots at a later time, although the fact that his coat of arms bears a dolphin, an anchor and a sword might indicate that some of his ancestors were seafarers in Cumberland.. There are quite a few such Grisdales.

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Comments
  1. John BArker says:

    You mention Mary Griesdale(1743-?) b marrying into the Agassiz family.

    Mary Griesdale daughter of Francis and Frances Griesdale was a different person to Mary Griesdale (1741-1810), daughter of Henry Griesdale of Ormond Street (now Great Ormond Street) Bloomsbury, who married David Louis Agassiz in about 1761.

    The mystery is what happened to the younger Mary Griesdale?

    What was the link between Mary Griesdale Agassiz, her cousin Arthur Griesdle of 2 Little Britain, who bequeathed her about £2,500 on his death in 1784, and Arthur Griesdale Linen Draper who married Sarah Maryat? Were they the same person or were they cousins?

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