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|Mrs Radcliffe’s Bath connection.
Written by JulieW
(4/5/2006 5:27 a.m.)
And it ties on quite nicely with this quote from Mrs Allen about the exciting prospects for shopping in Bath:
“Bath is a charming place, sir; there are so many good shops here. We are sadly off in the country; not but what we have very good shops in Salisbury, but it is so far to go — eight miles is a long way; Mr. Allen says it is nine, measured nine; but I am sure it cannot be more than eight; and it is such a fag — I come back tired to death. Now, here one can step out of doors and get a thing in five minutes.”
You have all heard , no doubt,( no doubt!)of Josiah Wedgwood and his wares.
In 1768 his range of Egyptian, Etruscan and Pebble vases became very successful ,but by 1770 the novelty of these ranges of vases began to wane and Wedgwood, the supreme entrepreneur and salesman, began to look further afield than London to display and sell his wares.
Wedgwood’s partner was Thomas Bentley ,and he wrote to him in August 1770 proposing they set up their own showrooms in both Dublin and Bath.
The plan was not acted upon until 1772.Two trusted Wedgwood employees were dispatched to Dublin, while the Bath shop was opened by a family ember of Mr Bentley’s: his sister –in-law Ann Ward together with her husband William.(She was also sister to Bentleys house keeper, Hannah Oats who had kept house for him since the death of his wife in 1756.)
The Ward’s daughter Ann does not appear to have lived with them much in Bath: for some reason , probably because the Bentleys were childless and fairly well off, rather like the situation that existed between the Knight family and Edward Austen, JA’s brother ,their daughter Ann had stayed with Thomas Bentley as his ward ,at his home in Chelsea, from around 1771when she was 7 years old.
Why shoud all this be of interest to us? Well, simply that this is the Ann Radcliffe (nee Ward) who became famous for her gothic novels so beloved by Catherine and Isabella.
(Note: if you are interested in the minutiae of Mrs Ratcliffe’s life then I recommend you read The Mistress of Udolpho : the Life of Ann Ratcliffe by Rictor Norman(( 1999),especially the chapter Taste versus Decorum)
There is one letter from Wedgwood to Bentley which makes mention of her:
The Organ Arrived safe and a most joyful opening of it we had .About twenty young sprigs were made as happy as mortals could be, and danced and lilted away. It would have done your heart good to have seen them. I wish we had your Sprightly Little Neece( sic) with us, but give my love to her and tell her that when the organ is sent to town again which it will be soon it shall be sent to Chelsea for her Amusement a week or two..
It might interest you to know that Wedgwood gave the Wards considerable assistance when their shop opened , as he was due to stay in Bath as his wife Sally was seeking a cure for her rheumatism .He stayed with them in their rooms above the new showroom in Westgate Buildings.
Rather like Sir Walter Elliot, some years later, Wedgwood was rather worried about the site of his showroom :
IT might do perhaps for the season but it will have little Town business the rest of the year.
He also wrote that he considered Westgate Buildings unsatisfactory as the street was busy with
Coal carts ,Coal horses and asses-& a great way from the Town & Parades& not very near the Principal Pump Room...
The Bath sales were moderate but in 1774 the Ward family moved the showroom from Westgate Buildings to the prime shopping territory of 43 Milson street in the hope of better sales..
Mrs Ward wrote to Wedgewood that:
We are in great hopes our new situation will answer better than ye last as we have had more Customers this last fortnight than a long time before.
The shop was advertised on bills handed out to the public attending the Pump Room( a practise Wedgwood despised)as being:
At the corner of Milsom street where all varieties of Queens Ware are sold. As well as Vases,Urns,Ewers, Bas-Reliefs ,Cameos,Cameo Medallions imitations of Porphyry, Jasper, Agate and other beautiful stones, pots for flowers Roots bulbous Roots ,Toilets, Pyramids etc., with great variety
The shop moved to premises higher up in Milsom Street (number22)in 1779.
The Wards eventually retired from the business in 1792. In fact, the Bath showrooms never really did very well financially.
Ann Radcliffe did not join her parents to live in Bath shop, despite the occasional visit( the claims made that she did live and was educated at Bath seem rather spurious ,see Mistress of Udolphobelow) but she did marry there. (Note: if you are interested in the minutiae of Mrs Radcliffe’s life then I recommend you read The Mistress of Udolpho : the Life of Ann Radcliffe by Rictor Norman(( 1999),especially the chapter Taste versus Decorum)
She married an attorney ,William Radcliffe on 15th January 1786 at St Michael’s Church Bath and left to live with him in London and became the published author we now know.
Just a few facts I thought you might like to share.;-)
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