28 January 2014

No. 13 Royal Crescent: Connections to the Pitt and Grenville families

 The door of Number 13, Royal Crescent
Above is a photo I took last September (2013) of No. 13 Royal Crescent in Bath, England. Apart from being located in one of the most beautiful spots in the United Kingdom, the thirty houses that comprise the Crescent hold a wealth of history from the mid-18th century to the present. The foundation stone was first laid at No. 1 in 1767, and building work was finally completed in 1775.

A modern day view of The Royal Crescent, Bath
It was here at No. 13 Bath Crescent (the 'Royal' part not being added until sometime in the 19th century) that William Pitt’s maternal uncle the Rt. Hon. Henry Grenville, the one-time governor of Barbados, lived after his retirement in the mid-1770s. Grenville resided in this residence until his death (at the property) in April 1784 [1]. I confirmed his address by using the Bath Records Office, Bath Ancestors Database. By simply typing in the surname 'Grenville,' it showed that he was living at 13 [Royal] Crescent, and paying his parish poor rates and taxes from that address in 1781. Henry Grenville's daughter Louisa Grenville married William Pitt's brother in-law, Charles, the 3rd Earl Stanhope, not long after Pitt's sister Hester died in 1780.

I confess that the primary reason I was searching for Mr. Grenville’s address on The Royal Crescent was to determine which address William Pitt’s sister Lady Harriot was staying at whilst she spent time in Bath during the late 1770s. She often wrote letters to her mother Lady Hester Chatham from her uncle’s house at No. 13 Bath Crescent. These letters make for a very interesting study of late 18th century social history, and particularly for a look at the lives of aristocratic women in fashionable society. Whilst in Bath, Lady Harriot enjoyed going to balls, parties, and the Bath Assembly Rooms.

She also writes an account of having a family silhouette drawn whilst her and her older brother John, Lord Pitt, were staying with the Grenvilles in December 1777. After apologising to her mother that Lord Pitt was unable to write to her as he was appointed to have his likeness drawn at the exact time her letter arrived in the post, she goes on to relate:

"Our whole Family Circle are to be drawn at the Cheap price of five and Twenty shillings. He [an unknown artist] takes Likenesses from Shades which He reduces to the Size of a miniature Picture, and then He finishes them in Water Colours. We have seen some of the strongest Likenesses possible done in this way, and really not unpleasing ones. I am to set to day too and I am afraid I shall be obliged to go soon..." [2].

 Lady Harriot (Pitt) Eliot by an unknown artist
Unfortunately, Lady Harriot never specifies who the artist was that took the likenesses. So far I have been unable to track down where any of these likenesses are to be found. Perhaps the watercolour shown above of Lady Harriot is the same one she sat for in Bath on December 13th, 1777? I'm sure there are others out there who may be inclined to explore this further.


1. The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle, Vol. 54, Part 1, p. 318.

2. Headlam, C. (ed.) (1914) The Letters of Lady Harriot Eliot 1766-1786. Edinburgh: Constable, p. 28.

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