(Cheveley Park in the 17th century by Jan Siberechts, from here)
(From Public Advertiser, 18 January 1790)
I have mentioned a few times on here the mystery that was John, Earl of Chatham’s “seat” of “Cheveley Park/Hall/House/Whatever”. This was first flagged up to me when searching for references to John in the Burney Newspaper Collection. From the summer of 1787 John and his wife could regularly be found at this “Cheveley” over the sporting season, up until John “disposed” of the estate in July of 1797 (Times, 2 July 1797, although the Morning Post recorded him as being at Cheveley as late as 6 October 1797).
What confused me was this. The Cheveley in question (named “Hall” or “Park” interchangeably) was always stated to be “near Newmarket”, as in the snippet above; it was always mentioned as being John’s “seat”; it never seems to be mentioned in context with anybody else. Why would I be confused about this? Because Cheveley Park, Newmarket, was a hunting lodge belonging to the Duke of Rutland.
(From the Gazette and New Daily Advertiser, 22 January 1791)
So what was going on here? Did the Duke of Rutland rent out, or lend, his Cheveley Park, Newmarket, to the Earl of Chatham? They were after all very good friends— see my post on the subject the other day). Moreover, although John first started using Cheveley in the autumn of 1787, his bosom buddy the 4th Duke was at that point still alive and in Ireland, so no doubt might well have given John permission to use one of his estates for a bit. After the Duke died in October of that year, his son the 5th Duke was all of nine years old and, no doubt, a bit young to need a hunting lodge all to himself. It could very possibly have been the Cheveley Park, Newmarket.
But surely there would be some record of it? And I couldn’t find anything—nothing at all. A Google search for “Cheveley Hall” (on the supposition that the Hall and the Park were two different places) came up with nothing but a small half-timbered house in the centre of Cheveley village that John would have looked down his (very impressive and well-formed) nose at, and had no land attached whatsoever to hunt in. An email to the Newmarket Local History Society turned up nothing. ardentpittite very helpfully assisted me in finding some references to Cheveley Park in the Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, but although the history stated that the house “stood empty” between 1784 and 1799 the evidence given for this statement was a couple of newspapers published over late 1786 and early 1787 (before John moved in) and a letter of 20 August 1799 from William Windham in the Dropmore MSS (after John moved out). By that reckoning John could certainly have been using Cheveley between 1787 and 1797—but I still had no proof.
My latest visit to the Archives made me more certain than ever that I was definitely looking at the Cheveley Park. Apart from John and Rutland’s gushy manlove letters, I found several references to John being at Cheveley Park, Newmarket:
Surely there being two Cheveley Parks in Newmarket would give rise to confusion at the Post Office? And let’s not forget this letter from Pitt the Younger to his mother, from PRO 30/8/12 f 389, dated 13 September 1787, as usual very modest about his abilities in the sporting field: “I returned yesterday from Chevely [sic] which I reached on the preceding Monday, and had the pleasure of finding my Brother and Lady Chatham established very much to their Satisfaction. My visit was not a long one but afforded me a good deal of Riding in the way there and back, and as good a Day’s Sport of Shooting as could be had without ever killing.” (Interestingly John Ehrman, who refers to this letter in The Younger Pitt: The Years of Acclaim p. 590, does not seem to have cottoned on to the fact that John was using Cheveley independently of Rutland.)
So was it the same Cheveley? “All I need,” I cried, “is a newspaper article saying something like “Lord Chatham has taken over the Duke of Rutland’s seat at Cheveley”. So a thousand thanks to my fellow Pittster and sister-in-research Steph, who within minutes came back with the following: “The Duke of Rutland’s house at Cheveley Park is taken by Lord Chatham during the sporting season” (From Norfolk Chronicle 7 July 1787).
Many, many thanks to Steph are due, therefore, for putting me out of my misery. And now I really must write a lengthy email to Newmarket Local History Society. 😉
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