Friday, 28 June 2013

A Little Bit of History.....

Really pleased to get a couple of days in London this week to take care of some business and meet up with some old friends.

Unusually, I found myself staying in Bloomsbury, mainly due to the fact that my usual club now seemingly opens its doors to anybody who has ever seen a movie about WW2. Not exactly what it was established for, and real veterans are finding it increasingly difficult to book a room. I'm glad I got that off my chest!

Actually, one of my more highly esteemed ancestors lived in Bloomsbury for some years, eventually ending his days there in 1824. Major John Cartwright lived from 1819 until his death at 37 Burton Crescent. Many years later, Burton Crescent was renamed Cartwright Gardens, and a statue of 'The Major' as he was known stands there to this day.

Number 37 is now gone, and that whole side of the road has been replaced by student dorms and other buildings associated with University College London (UCL). However, I will share a little family secret here.

If you position yourself on the pavement opposite the statue and maneuvre so you are looking into his eyes, then you are standing directly on the spot below the bedroom in which he passed away.

A great pamphleteer and letter writer, on his deathbed he received a letter from Thomas Jefferson. It ended with the words  "Your age of eighty-four and mine of eighty-one years, ensure us a speedy meeting. We may then commune at leisure, and more fully, on the good and evil, which, in the course of our long lives, we have both witnessed; and in the mean time, I pray you to accept assurances of my high veneration and esteem for your person and character".

Interestingly, Jane Randolph, Jefferson's mother was born in Shadwell in east London, and was associated with St Paul's Church, where many of my own family are buried. Our last association with the church, however, was in 1903 when my great-grandparents were married there.

On moving to the US she married Peter Jefferson. He owned most of what is now Albemarle County in Virginia, and he actually founded a town which he named Shadwell, presumably to make her feel at home. And that is why there is a Shadwell in Virginia!

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