The Sleeping Children of Lichfield Cathedral

Robinson Monument
The Sleeping Children (1817) by Sir Francis Chantrey, Lichfield Cathedral

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Lichfield Cathedral is a marble monument of two sleeping children lying on a couch in each other’s arms. It represents a landmark in British sculpture and brought its creator public fame and critical attention. But above all it is a testament to maternal grief, a poignant tribute to innocent life cut short.

In 1808 the Reverend William Robinson was appointed a canon of Lichfield, no doubt assisted by his father-in-law who had become Dean of the cathedral the previous year. This preferment was an important step in what seemed a promising clerical career. But within a few short years he was dead from consumption, leaving his wife and two young daughters.

More tragedy was to follow. One of the daughters, Ellen-Jane (named after her mother) died from burns after her nightdress caught fire. Then the other, Marianne, succumbed to disease. Within two years Mrs Robinson had been faced with the death of her husband and both her children. Confronted by this grief she sought resolution in art.

She sought out Francis Chantrey, a well-regarded sculptor based in London. Although he had made some church monuments his reputation was built on his production of marble busts. Chantrey had great natural talent but being self-taught he found it hard to impress the artistic establishment. Mrs Robinson commissioned him in August 1815 to produce a black memorial tablet for her late husband (at a cost of £50).  But for her daughters she wanted something more tender and personal from Chantrey, spending £600 on the project.

She described to the sculptor how she used to watch her daughters locked in each other’s arms asleep and this gave Chantrey the inspiration for the design. It is significant that the children were shown not on their death bed but restfully sleeping. The younger of the two even holds a bunch of snowdrops, a poetic allusion to the inscription (misquoted) from Milton: ‘Oh, fairest flowers! – no sooner blown than blasted!’ The contrast between the naturalism of slumber and the knowledge that the Robinson girls were indeed dead was powerful.

This emotional conceit was adored by the public. The monument appeared in the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1817 and caused a sensation. Visitors crowded to see it. Tearful mothers viewed it and returned again and again. Critics also praised it. A number of poems – of varying literary merit – were inspired by it. Engravings were widely sold. Even small-scale replicas were available. It was perhaps the most famous piece of sculpture that had appeared in Britain.

After the enthusiastic reception of The Sleeping Children, as the monument was known, Chantrey went from strength to strength. He was soon accepted as a Royal Academician (RA) and later knighted. In demand for busts, monuments, and public statues, by the time he died in 1841 he left a fortune of £150,000. This money now funds a trust to purchase works by British artists for the nation.

The Sleeping Children, as the monument was known, was later installed in Lichfield Cathedral where its poignant beauty as a funeral memorial could be fully felt. It was no longer just an extraordinary example of sculptural art, but a shrine to the memory of a family known to the community.




If you mention the word ‘Garibaldi’ to most people (in the UK at least) they will quite probably think of a curranty biscuit. But in the Victorian period everyone knew that Giuseppe Garibaldi was the freedom fighter who with his intrepid band of red shirted volunteers had united Italy. Garibaldimania spread far from his home and soon reached Britain.

Giuseppe GaribaldiWhen the dust settled after the Napoleonic Wars, Italy consisted of a number of states with their own laws and traditions. Decades of diplomacy, political manoeuvring, and armed conflict were needed before they were welded into a single kingdom in 1861. But it was the dashing and romantic figure of Garibaldi, leading an army of volunteers that captured the imagination. So short of funds that the troops wore red blousy shirts instead of a uniform, Garibaldi’s men were disciplined and fearsome. He became a hero not just for helping to unite Italy but particularly for fighting against the autocratic kingdom of Naples and the papal oppression of Rome.

The British loved this and vied to celebrate Garibaldi. A racehorse was named after him. All manner of Garibaldi merchandise was available to the public. Of course there was the Garibaldi currant biscuit, devised by the virtuoso biscuit maker Jonathan Carr; the idea was soon taken up by Huntley & Palmer. A Garibaldi Sauce was produced in Scotland. There were Staffordshire porcelain figurines of Garibaldi, together with mugs, plates and tankards. Red Garibaldi shirts became fashionable amongst women as well as men.

When Garibaldi came to visit England in 1864, everyone wanted to meet the Italian hero. Aristocrats and politicians vied to meet him, workers’ groups around the country invited him to their cities. When he arrived in London half a million people were there to see. Not everyone was so keen. Queen Victoria failed to see what the fuss was about. She thought Garibaldimania was undignified and wrote to the Prime Minister that ‘brave and honest though he is, he has ever been a revolutionist leader’. Karl Marx, who might have been expected to warm to such a radical figure, dismissed Garibaldi as ‘a pitiful donkey’.

In spite of receiving a range of invitations from workers to visit cities across Britain, the government had no intention of letting Garibaldi out of London. The last thing it needed was to let such a notorious radical free amongst the people. Garibaldi was encouraged to leave under a confusion of excuses from ill-health to the impossibility of doing justice to all his invitations.

Even after his visit to Britain, Garibaldi’s influence continued to be felt. One of the most famous examples was Nottingham Forest Football Club. In 1865 a group of enthusiastic amateurs founded the club, resolving that the team colour would be ‘Garibaldi red’. Initially they ordered a supply of caps in that colour before moving onto football shirts. In the early years reports of them might refer to the ‘Foresters’ but just as often to the ‘Garibaldi Reds’.

The colour did not just endure for Nottingham Forest (they wear it to this day), but due to them it spread around the world. The red shirts worn at times by Arsenal, Sparta Prague, Ajax, and Sporting Braga all have their origins in the Foresters’ attachment to Garibaldi’s red shirts.

Jeremy Goldsmith, 7 November 2018

An article on Garibaldimania in Nottingham appears in the November 2018 issue of Left Lion magazine. Click here to read it for free.

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Three Lions – Emblem of English Football

For the first time in 28 years England have progressed to the semi-final of the football World Cup. As a result the three lions on the team’s shirt have once again become an iconic symbol of the national dream of footballing glory.

The thrFA crest 2009.svgee lions is really the emblem of the English Football Association (FA), established in 1863 to formalise and regulate a common set of rules to be used across the country. To this day, the FA is the governing body of English football.

The first international match took place in 1872 between England (representing the FA) and Scotland. England wore white jerseys with the FA crest on the chest. This consisted of three navy lions within an outline shield topped by a crown, more than a nod to the design of the Royal Arms of England.

This design was used with some variation in every international match following and was put on an official footing after the war when the College of Arms (responsible for heraldry in England and Wales) granted a coat of arms to the FA. This combined the three lions with a background of Tudor roses, but removing the crown as this design was being used by the England cricket team. The new FA arms kept the existing style of navy on white but was suitably differenced from the emblems of other sports teams and the English Royal Arms.

Representing England by three lions goes back to the Middle Ages. Lions were common heraldic devices, no doubt noted for their strength and courage. William the Conqueror was reputed to have used three lions on his shield, though this was not put forward until nearly two centuries after his death. Indeed, heraldry as a system of hereditary personal symbols only definitely appears in the mid-12th century.

Although it may have been used earlier, the first contemporary evidence we have of an English king using three lions is in the reign of Richard the Lionheart. On his second Great Seal from the 1190s he is shown riding on horseback in armour, bearing a shield with three lions. In every subsequent reign this shield design was used by kings and queens to represent England, irrespective of changes of the families who ruled.

So by the time that the FA were seeking a symbol to adequately represent the national football team of England, what better authoritative symbol could there be? Even more powerful than the flag of St George, that had long been overtaken by the British Union Flag. And so it has remained to this day.

Jeremy Goldsmith, 11 July 2018

The First Duke of Sussex

When Prince Harry married Meghan Markle he was created Duke of Sussex. It is quite usual for senior royals to be given an aristocratic title upon marriage; Prince William, for instance, became the Duke of Cambridge. While the Queen may select any title she wishes, certain names tend to be revived rather than created anew. The latest occasion was true to this tradition.

Prince Frederick Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843) by Guy Head (1798)

The first Duke of Sussex was Prince Augustus Frederick, son of George III. His brothers included the sensuous and gluttonous Prince Regent (later George IV), the army general known in nursery rhymes as ‘the Grand Old Duke of York’, and the naval enthusiast who lived for years in an open and unmarried relationship with an actress (who in more sober times came to the throne himself as William IV).

Prince Augustus fitted well into this company. A man of passionate enthusiasms, he loved learning and the arts. He once boasted to a lady, apparently without humour, that ‘I have the most wonderful voice that was ever heard’ and amassed the largest single collection of bibles then known. He filled his rooms with songbirds and his garden at Kensington Palace was widely praised. Also fascinated by science, he served as president of the Royal Society and at his death he even offered his body to medical science (though this was not taken up).

He was just as passionate in his love affairs. Before his parents could arrange a suitable dynastic marriage for him, Prince Augustus fell in love with an Englishwoman he met in Rome. While her father was an earl and Governor of the Bahamas, Lady Augusta Murray and her prince feared the king would not approve the match. Indeed, to prevent unsuitable connections, the Royal Marriages Act 1772 rendered any marriage made without the monarch’s permission would be void.

In spite of this, while still in Rome, Prince Augustus and an English clergyman were smuggled into Augusta’s room one evening while her mother was attending a party. A few months later, back in London, they married again under slightly disguised names, she being heavily pregnant. Not long after, the marriage was annulled and their child became illegitimate.

Although the couple lived together happily in Germany for a time, Prince Augustus was ultimately lured back by the promise of a parliamentary grant to give him financial independence. The money was paid, but only when he renounced Augusta. Around the same time he was given the title Duke of Sussex.

In spite of his marriage being void and the occasional difficulties Augusta caused him after the split, Prince Augustus avoided any new commitment until her death many years later. It was then that his passionate soul once more led him to marry without the royal permission, this time to Cecilia Buggin, the widow of a knight. Caring little for the official disapproval, he promptly appeared in public at a party where the couple were treated as Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

On official occasions, though, Cecilia had no appropriate rank. Queen Victoria, however, sympathised with the lovers’ plight and created her Duchess of Inverness in her own right, giving her something of the precedence she ought to have had.

When he died, the Duke asked to be buried not with the Royal Family at Windsor (where Cecilia would be excluded), but in the public cemetery at Kensal Green in London. In due course his wife was buried beside him.

Jeremy Goldsmith

For more about Prince Augustus, please see the July 2018 issue of Majesty magazine where a longer version of this piece appears

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Using the UK Census


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Francis William Edmonds, Taking the Census (1854)


Collecting personal data is nothing new. While the information harvesting of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook have shocked many, it has been known for centuries that the more you know about people the more effectively you can deal with them. And while aggressive data collection by companies is a recent phenomenon, governments have been doing it far longer in the form of the census.

What is a census?

Simply a census is an official record of the population of a country or area. At its most basic it may just be a matter of counting heads. But most modern censuses have collected many more details of age, economic circumstances and geographical origin.

When was the first census in the UK?

The first modern census was taken in Sweden in 1749 and was soon followed in other European nations. Campaigners tried to introduce a British census in the 1750s but the gentry opposed through fear that it would be a means of increasing property taxes. Later a group of statisticians and politicians were able to persuade the government to take a census every ten years. The first census of England, Wales, and Scotland (Ireland was not included until later) was made in 1801. A survey has been taken every decade since except for 1941 when the Second World War intervened.

What information is contained in the census?

The first censuses were concerned with collating statistics. They counted the population and noted the numbers of people involved in farming or factories. The ages of citizens began to be recorded but few personal details. For the period 1801-1831 very few records survive other than the bare numbers in the official published census abstracts.

In 1841 the census system changed dramatically. From then we have names, addresses, ages, gender, occupation and area of origin. Throughout the C19th more details were added. In 1851 individual’s marital status was recorded as well as the relation to the head of the household. Severe disabilities began to be noted. At this time the precise location of every person’s birth i.e. town or village and county was also included.

In 1911, the latest census currently available to public view, an even more comprehensive range of personal details were taken. For instance, the number of years a couple had been married, the number of children born within the marriage, how many were living, and how many had died, and whether anyone in the household suffered from an ‘infirmity’.

At various times the information recorded was slightly different in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, but the above – based on the censuses of England – provides a good guide to what was going on.

How to find people in the census?


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Suffragettes boycotting the 1911 Census in Manchester



To avoid counting anyone more than once, only those who were present on census night were recorded. This meant that visitors might be included while other members of a family might be unusually absent because they were elsewhere. However, using online indexes, ‘missing’ people may be found elsewhere, using factors like age and place of birth for cross-referencing.

Some people, such as criminals, may have had a reason to avoid the authorities. Those in the armed services may still be found in separately collected census data. In 1911 many women who campaigned for the right to vote evaded the census as a form of protest.

Where can I access UK census records?

Although the censuses are part of the National Archives as a government record, all the censuses between 1841 and 1911 have been digitised and are available through a variety of subscription-access websites. The major providers include

Where can I find out more about the census?

There are a number of thorough books on the subject, but particularly useful guides are

  • Emma Jolly, Tracing Your Ancestors using the Census (Pen & Sword, 2013)
  • Edward Higgs, Making Sense of the Census Revisited (Institute of Historical Research, 2005)
  • Peter Christian and David Annal, Census: The Expert Guide (National Archives, 2008)

How can I get help with census records?

We can help with any enquiry relating to UK census records between 1841 and 1911. The team at Talbot Research are experienced with searching and interpreting these records and putting them in context to create the clearest picture of the past. Please contact us to find out more.