I have this week discovered yet again what an amazing research tool the internet is! Through the Amherst website I have met a distant, but most distinguished, cousin as Hugh is the 37th Squire of Mitford. A remarkable family that held the estate of Mitford in Northumberland for nearly a 1000 years – and the main branch of the family that gave rise to the notorious ‘Mitford girls’, among many other rather splendid characters.
Unfortunately the Northumberland lot were not very good at producing heirs when they were needed, so the lines of inheritance got rather convoluted leading in the end to the family’s down turn in fortune and the sad sale of the last acres of the surviving estate in the 90’s.
Anyway, Hugh is as deeply involved with researching his ancestors, as I am mine – and as our researches both include Admiral Robert Mitford (my great, great, great grandfather) he very kindly sent me the following entry in an auction catalogue of a few years ago:
A BOX of decanters and glasses which once belonged to one of Castle Morpeth’s most famous seafaring men is to go under the hammer in Newcastle on March 12. Dating to the early 19th century and contained in a rustic metal-bound oak case, the drinking set owned by Admiral Robert Mitford, of Mitford Castle, is to be sold by auctioneers Anderson & Garland …’
The entry goes on to explain that the Admiral was supposed to have been detailed by Queen Victoria to collect a consignment of Madeira, (from Madeira!!!) and then sail it home to England via the Equator – anyone with any sense of direction might think that this was not the most direct route – but apparently shaking and heating the madeira wine ‘improved it’ – so what could be more sensible than loading up a ship with wine and sending it down to the equator for plenty of natural heating and shaking!
This piece of information sent me back to check out the Admiral’s sketchbook – he was an immensely talented artist – and while the sketchbook is not in great condition, the paintings are good to superb!!! And I came across this little drawing captioned ‘A Shearwater shot off the back of a turtle off Madeira‘ – who knows if this was painted on the trip described above – but it is really nice to conjecture that it was!!!
While I do feel rather bad at the sad demise of the shearwater and hope the turtle didn’t end up as soup (I’m not confident of that!) – pre photos, the only way you could get a creature to stay still long enough to record it properly, was to kill it, skin it, and preserve it till you got home – then you could stuff it and draw it. Apparently the Admiral’s daughter was a renowned taxidermist – she was obviously taught by an expert!!
I LOVE THE INTERNET!!!