Robert J. Penhey, British Historian*
[Edited & annotated by Larry Pearce]
(Available also in “Abbreviated” edition)
[Re: The royal princesses with whom Uncle Charles Austen may have associated] There were three Charlottes. One was the queen of George III and died in 1818. Her granddaughter was daughter and heiress of George IV. She was born in 1796 and would have become Queen in 1830 but died in 1817. There is a very impressive memorial to her in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. The third was a daughter of George III and Charlotte. The queen had become a rather unattractive person by 1800 and George’s heiress was young in the 1800’s, so the most likely candidate for Charles Austen’s attention was George III’s sixth daughter, the Princess Royal (1766-1828). By 1800 she may well have been married and moved to Wurtemburg. Princess Adelaide is harder to find. There was a Mary Adelaide, a daughter of a brother of George IV. However, William IV’s Queen was Adelaide. It was after her (or, as an American might say, for her) that the South Australian capital was named. As it happens, there had been a French expedition to South Australia, and the site of Adelaide had been called Ville Napoleon or some such name. There is a display on the subject in the Boudin Gallery in Honfleur [France], on of the harbours on the Seine Estuary to which blockade runners tried to sail. Queen Victoria’s mother was the Duchess of Kent, wife of Edward, Duke of Kent. He was a brother of George IV and William IV. Both the Duchess of Kent and her daughter were called Victoria. [For fun, do an Internet search of “George IV.” George Augustus Frederick was “rather too fond of women and wine,” not the sort we would have wanted our ancestors associating with. His amorous nature was controversial, to say the least. After having his first illegal marriage to a “Catholic” annulled, he married his cousin, Caroline, who ran off to Italy with their daughter, only to return later to try to claim her Queenship. George barred her from the coronation. He died ten years later of a bleeding ulcer.]
When it came to dancing with princesses, there were plenty to chose from, though not all were young ladies present at court during the relevant period. The Royal ladies of George IV’s generation were Queen Caroline who, after 1796, was estranged from her husband and, for the most time at least, from the court. Others were Frederica, Duchess of York and Albany (by marriage); the future Queen Adelaide (1767-1820, by marriage);Victoria, Duchess of Kent (1786-1861, by marriage); Frederica, Duchess of Cumberland (by marriage), Amelia, Sophia, Mary, Duchess of Glouchester and Edinburgh (1776-1857); Elizabeth; Augusta (George III’s sister and mother of George IV’s queen, died 1813); Charlotte, Princess Royal and Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge (by marriage). The last was the house of Hesse Cassel and not born until 1797, so she would not have been present during the relevant period. In Queen Victoria’s generation were Charlotte, Elizabeth, Victoria, Augusta and Mary Adelaide. [These were favorite names for the Austen-Pearce line. Charles had younger sisters named Mary and Charlotte. His brother Thomas has children named Elizabeth, Caroline, Mary, and George. Richard and Susan Austen Pearce also gave some of their children royal or traditional names: Charlotte, Frederick, Alfred, and Ambrose. My Grandfather Wesley had a sister named Addie.]
[Re: Castle Gate Manor] In place names, “gate” has two meanings. There is the obvious one of an opening in a wall, but in a part of England which was settled by Danes, that is to say the North and to some extent the East, a gate is a street. Therefore, Castle Gate might be a door into a castle or the street leading to the castle. It is not a typical name for a manor. However, it sounds like a grace and favour of the monarch. This would place it by the castle gate in somewhere like Windsor Castle. There are indeed houses called the Poor Knights’ Lodgings near one of the gates of Windsor Castle. The “Pepper com. Right” would be the peppercorn rent. This is a nominal rent which could be anything such as a penny a year or a rose presented on the 10th of June or indeed, a peppercorn. It means that the place was effectively rent-free, but the legal rights and obligations of a rental tenant applied. [An Internet search of “Castle Gate” reveals a Presbyterian church by that name with origins from 1689 in a small town near Nottingham, famous for Robin Hood and about 30 miles from Bourne, Lincolnshire, in the East Midlands. We wonder if this town could be Charles’ Castle Gate Manor and how Mr. Penhey missed considering it.] Where the sheep fit into that set up is another matter. They strongly imply a rural estate and Castle Gate in Cornwall might fit the requirements. [The Internet lists several old Pearce families from Cornwall also. We’ll do further research on possible connections from there.] It is a straggling hamlet on the St. Ives to Penzance Road. If this is indeed the place, and Charles’ father obtained it for him, then the father wanted the son well out of his way. From the father’s point of view, it was nearly as remote as Pine Creek [in America]. Had Charles been getting on too well with a lady at court? For a flavour of Western Cornwall some fifty years before, read the popular Poldark novels of Winston Graham. The grace and favour aspect of the matter is still possible as the Duchy of Cornwall has much property in Cornwall. Duke of Cornwall is one of the titles traditionally held by the heir to the throne as the future George IV was in the 1800’s, so it could have been made available to Charles if he had connections at court. All the references are to George IV despite the fact that the dates fall mostly before his reign. It does look as though Charles was a member of the Prince of Wale’s circle, i.e. a friend of the Duke of Cornwall, the heir to the throne. The three were one man. Relations between George III and the Prince of Wales were such that Charles would not have been welcome at court, but perhaps tolerated. This fits with the grace and favour farm. He is not likely to have been given it without somehow having made himself useful [no doubt a reference to an earlier statement that Charles and his uncle before were war heroes with access to the throne].
[Re: The move from Castle Gate Manor] St. Albans is easily found in Herfordshire to the north of London. Litchborough is much less well known. It lies in Northamptonshire half-way between Daventry and Towcester, to the southwest of Northampton. Like the Cornish Castle Gate, it is very small and a little remote, but not nearly so remote as early nineteenth century west Cornwall.
[Re: The meeting of the Pearces and Austens] The internal chronology seems a little shaky. The couples met at a fair 28 miles from Bourne. If this was Bourne, Lincolnshire, then Kettering or Market Harborough might have been the place. Both these, Kettering the more so, are conveniently placed to be reached from Litchborough. The same, however, is true of Wellingborough in relation to Bourn in Cambridgeshire. Bourne, Lincolnshire, now has the final “e” and Bourn, Cambridgeshire, has not; but it was settled only in about 1880-90. Whichever Bourn(e) it was, Litchborough can be seen as a likely base for Charles, but the story says that he moved there two years before going to America. He set off in 1820, so that gives us 1818 for his arrival at Litchborough, and the couple was married in 1813. He was in St. Albans for four years, so he arrived there in 1814, and even allowing a little latitude, this is still a tight timetable for fitting in courting and wedding arrangements. If Charles was living at St. Albans when he went to the fair, the Bourn, Cambridgeshire is the more likely home for Sarah [Pearce]. They would then have met at somewhere like Hereford or Ware, which lie on a direct road from Bourn and are only 12 or 14 miles from St. Albans. If Charles was still based at Castle Gate, Cornwall, then he was well away from home 28 miles from either Bourn(e). Although there are numerous place names that contain “bourne” as an element, it is an English word [from Latin and French, meaning “boundary, goal, or objective” that is often associated with a river or stream] and their distribution does not extend to Devon and Cornwall, counties which were not English in the period when most English names were fixed. There are one or two in Dorset and Somerset and several in Wiltshire. Now the nearest to Castle Gate, Cornwall, is a roundtrip of several day’s riding away, a journey not to be undertaken lightly. Conceivably, Sarah was visiting her sister, Charlotte Hale, if the latter were already married and living in Wiltshire [referred to earlier] at say, Winterbourne Basset. Conceivably the name had become shortened in the [storytelling] granddaughter’s mind to “Bourne.” This train of unlikely possibilities can, I think, be set aside. If Charles was a sheep farmer, he would have had business at a fair for the purpose of selling or buying sheep, so meeting there would not be unlikely. The question is, “Which one?”
[This is the end of Part II. The final installment, Part III, features commentary on Uncle Charles Austen and Great Grandfather Richard Pearce’s journey to America and settlement along Pine Creek, in what is now North Park, Pittsburgh, PA.]
* These musings of Mr. Penhey, a resident of Bourne, Lincolnshire, England, were sent to me after a brief visit to his home during a vacation trip. I was referred to him by the Bourne Library. He has the reputation of being very knowledgeable in both local and national historical affairs.