Hi everyone. Research for Easter At Netherfield suggested that 1799 was a very cold year in England. The same seemed to be true of 2024, and very wet too, but for now at least it looks as though summer has arrived. Hurrah! Sitting outside and plonking away at my new book Georgiana Darcy’s London Season on the laptop has suddenly become possible.

In Easter At Netherfield, Lieutenant George Wickham was posted to Ireland and Lydia was left adrift in London. In Book 2 of Georgiana Darcy’s London Season, also set in 1799, he returns to England for a few weeks at the end of which he stays overnight in St Helen’s in Lancashire before catching a packet ship sailing to Dublin from Liverpool the following day. Therefore he needs an inn for the night.

I must say that whenever I’ve researched coaching inns in the south of England, there’s been a mass of information from the present-day pubs’ websites, local history groups and listing information where the building is listed. If the buildings are old, most pubs want to advertise the fact and often give details of the building’s history in their website.

There are loads of pubs in St Helen’s. Some look old enough to be eighteenth century but their websites gave no information regarding their history, concentrating on the menus and beers available, live sport, karaoke, etc. After a time I gave up and Wickham had to stay at an unnamed inn in St Helen’s. However, he still eyes up the serving wench!

Regarding George Wickham’s posting to Ireland in 1799 following the failed rebellion of 1798, I read various accounts of the uprising and its eventual defeat, leaving a band of rebels led by Michael Dwyer holed up in the Wicklow Mountains who ‘continued a guerilla-style campaign’ according to various sites including heritage.wicklowheritage.org.

This and other sites referred to a road which the British built through the mountains north to south to ‘assert their control over this area and subdue the rebels’. My quandary was: where would Wickham have been based when he returned to Ireland in June 1799? The road was started in about 1800 and not completed for some years. Barracks were built along the road but not by 1799.

There was already a large barracks at Dublin, the Collins Barracks, originally called the Royal Barracks, since early in the eighteenth century. I had to assume therefore that Wickham would have been stationed there, with forays to and perhaps camping out in and about the mountains (which are approximately 38km or 23 miles to the south of Dublin) with the object of flushing out the rebels. No doubt someone will correct me if there were nearer British army barracks than Dublin.

According to Wikipedia, Dwyer’s cousin Anne Devlin together with Robert Emmet planned an uprising in Dublin in 1803 which failed. Wikipedia and other sites relate that in the end, Dwyer accepted terms and he and others were transported, un-sentenced, to New South Wales in 1806 where he was exiled but was a free man.

Possibly, though, Wickham would have been stationed somewhere else in Ireland since one would assume there would have been British forces throughout Ireland to quell ideas of any further insurrection. However, of the 24 barracks in the Republic of Ireland listed in Wikipedia and the 14 in Northern Ireland, most were not in existence in 1799 and of those which were, I could find no mention of them in relation to the 1798 rebellion.

So days of research led to nothing specific about any other barracks in existence in 1799 in which George Wickham might have been stationed. In the circumstances, since in 1799 there were rebels holding out in the Wicklow Mountains who remained there for several years thereafter, it seems logical that Wickham would have been based in the nearby Royal Barracks at Dublin.

In Chapter 24 about Wickham’s stay in St Helen’s, he relates something of his past life which some readers may think paints a relatively favourable picture of him and may give the impression of justifying how he had in the end ‘turned out very wild’ as Darcy’s housekeeper Mrs Reynolds put it during Elizabeth’s and the Gardiners’ summer visit to Pemberley in Pride & Prejudice. However, one must not forget that, according to Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth the previous Easter, Wickham was given three thousand pounds in exchange for resigning ‘all claim to assistance in the church’. The letter also mentioned a legacy from Darcy’s father of one thousand pounds. Therefore, altogether, Wickham had access to four thousand pounds, a veritable small fortune at the time. Applying a modest multiplier of 145 to account for inflation, in present-day terms Wickham had about £580,000 at his disposal. Yet Pride & Prejudice implies that he had managed to get through all the money by the time he attempted to elope with Georgiana or, if not, then by the time he joined the militia about eight months later. That would be a period of approximately 4 to 4½ years. And he would not even have had to pay for his commission in the militia for it was only in the regulars that commissions could be bought. We really therefore cannot feel sorry for Mr Wickham.

When Wickham stays overnight at St Helen’s in Lancashire, he notices the poor air quality due to the emissions from the glass works nearby. The description says that ‘A huge glass-making works in nearby Ravenhead was belching smoke from a tall chimney and the several furnaces and annealing kilns, leaving a film of grime over every surface.’ This would have been the glassworks of the British Cast Plate Glass Manufacturer’s Company. Ravenhead was so near to St Helen’s that it is now a part of it.

I had to carry out a considerable amount of research into the glassworks and glassmaking generally for the storyline of Georgiana Darcy’s London Season but that’s a subject for another time.

It is hoped that Georgiana Darcy’s London Season, the fourth book in the Elizabeth Bennet Series, will be published in August or September 2024.

The attached picture by William Sadler Kelvin II depicts the Battle of Vinegar Hill which took place in June 1798.