Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

William Scott, First (and only) Lord Stowell

William Scott (1745-1836) was born in Northumberland to a father who was in the business of transporting coal. Both William and his brother John became successful jurists, William becoming a judge of the high court of admiralty and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and John eventually becoming Earl of Eldon and Lord Chancellor of England. William was raised to the peerage as a baron following the coronation of George IV in 1821. William was twice married, but as the only one of his four children was a female, the title became extinct after his death at age 90.

More information at Wikipedia.

William Scott, 1st Baron Stowell (1745-1836, Wikimedia Commons

Lord Stowell’s Love of Sightseeing

Punch & Judy by Cruikshank, 1828

Punch & Judy by Cruikshank, 1828

Lord Stowell loved manly sports, and was not above being pleased with the most rude and simple diversions. He gloried in Punch and Judy—their fun stirred his mirth without, as in Goldsmith’s case, provoking spleen. He made a boast on one occasion that there was not a puppet-show in London he had not visited, and when turned fourscore, was caught watching one at a distance with children of less growth in high glee.  He has been known to make a party with Wyndham to visit Cribb’s, and to have attended the “fives court” as a favourite resort. “There were curious characters,” he observed, “to be seen at these places.” He was the most indefatigable sight-seer in London. Whatever show could be visited for a shilling, or less, was visited by Lord Stowell. In the western end of London there was a room generally let for exhibitions. At the entrance, as it is said, Lord Stowell presented himself, eager to see “the green monster serpent,” which had lately issued cards of invitation to the public. As he was pulling out his purse to pay for his admission, a sharp but honest north-country lad, whose business it was to take the money, recognized him as an old customer, and knowing his name, thus addressed him: “We can’t take your shilling, my lord; ’tis the old serpent which you have seen twice before in other colors; but ye shall go in and see her.” He entered, saved his money, and enjoyed his third visit to the painted beauty. This love of “seeing sights” was, on another occasion, productive of a whimsical incident. Some forty years ago, an animal, called a “Bonassus,” was exhibited in the Strand. On Lord Stowell’s paying it a second visit, the keeper very courteously told his lordship that he was welcome to come, gratuitously, as often as he pleased. Within a day or two after this, however, there appeared, under the bills of the exhibition, in conspicuous characters, “Under the patronage of the Right Hon. Lord Stowell;” an announcement of which the noble and learned lord’s friends availed themselves, by passing many a joke upon him; all which he took with the greatest good humor.


The Bonassus…proved to be a troublesome neighbour—a constant annoyance. The following letter was intended to have been sent to the “Annoyance Jury,” by the occupier of the house in the Strand (nearly opposite Norfolk-street) adjoining that in which the “Bonassus” was exhibited:—

March 28, 1822

“Gentlemen,—I Am sorry to trouble you but I Am so Anoyd By next Door Neighbour the Bonassus and with Beasts, that I cannot live in my House—for the stench of the Beast is So Great And their is only A Slight petition Betwixt the houses and the Beast are continually Breaking through in to my Different Rooms And I am always loosing my lodgers in Consequence of the Beast first A Monkey made Its way in My Bedroom next the Jackall came in to the Yard and this last week the people in My Second floor have been Alarmed in the Dead of the Night By Monkey Breaking through into the Closet and are Going to leave in Consequence this being the third lodgers I have lost on account of the Beast And I have been letting my Second Floor at Half the Rent—And those men of Mr. James are Bawling the whole Day Against My Window—and continually taking peoples attention from My Window—And I am quite pestered with Rats and I Am Confident they came from the Exhebition—And in Short the Injury and Nuisance is So Great as almost Impossible to Describe But to be so Anoyd By such an Imposter I think is Very Hard—Gentlemen your Early inquiry will oblige your Servant—T.W.—.

N.B. And if I mention anything to Mr. James He only Abuses me with the Most Uncouth Language.”

Susana’s note: Apologies to English teachers everywhere, who have no doubt suffered through many such essays in their noble careers.

Lord Stowell enjoyed attending boxing matches at Cribb's, especially in his later years

Lord Stowell enjoyed attending boxing matches at Cribb’s, especially in his later years


Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse

6 thoughts on “Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing

  1. I haven’t thought about Punch and Judy in quite some time. They certainly were a little creepy to look at. Growing up, it was Kukla, Fran and Ollie.
    I love how Lord Stowell delighted in the fun and unusual. Much too often, we forget to enjoy the simple pleasures as we did when we were children.


  2. Enjoyed reading about how Lord Stowell liked to go and see different shows. I also thought the part about Bonassus was funny.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.