Posts Tagged ‘Laura Pulteney 1st Countess of Bath’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir James Murray Pulteney 7th Baronet
1755 – 26 April 1811

Sir James Pulteney 7th Baronet was born James Murray, he was the eldest son of Colonel Sir Robert Murray, 6th Baronet and his first wife Janet Murray, a younger sister of Patrick Murray, 5th Lord Elibank. Murray succeeded his father as baronet in 1771, while still a minor. He was educated at Westminster School and joined then the British Army.

Murray had had his first commission purchased in his mid-teens, as lieutenant in the 19th Regiment of Foot in 1770. Already a year later, he became captain in the 57th Regiment of Foot. He left for Europe in 1772 and having spent the time travelling, he returned to his regiment in Ireland in November 1775. With begin of the next year, Murray embarked for The Colonies to serve in the American War of Independence. He was wounded at the ankle during the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777, and shared his convalescence with his cousin Patrick Ferguson. Soon after recovering, he was shot through the thigh at the Battle of White Marsh in November.

Murray purchased a majorship in 1778, serving with the 4th Regiment of Foot in the West Indies and was involved in the Battle of St Lucia. He became lieutenant-colonel of the 94th Regiment of Foot in 1780 and on the regiment’s disbandment after three years was set on half pay. In 1789, he was transferred to active duty and was appointed an aide-de-camp to King George III of the United Kingdom, ranked as a colonel. Murray was sent to Koblenz, the headquarters of the allied forces against the French Revolutionary Armies. He was attached as adjutant to the Frederick, Duke of York in April 1793, fighting in Flanders, and was promoted to major-general in December. In 1794, he received command of the 18th Regiment of Foot and led his regiment to suppress the Irish Rebellion of 1798. A year thereafter, in June 1799 Pulteney (he had taken the name of Pulteney in 1794) was made a lieutenant-general and in November was wounded in the Helder Campaign, having been second in command. He commanded the Ferrol Expedition in August 1800 and sailed then to Gibraltar, before returning to England. He became General Officer Commanding Eastern District in 1805. In 1808 he became a full general.

In 1790, he entered the British House of Commons, sitting as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis until his death in 1811. Murray-Pulteney was sworn off the Privy Council in 1807, when he became Secretary at War, a post he held for two years.

On 24 July 1794, he married Henriette Laura Pulteney, 1st Baroness Bath, daughter of his cousin Sir William Pulteney, 5th Baronet in Bath House, London. Two days before he had by Royal Licence assumed the surname Pulteney only to inherit his wife’s relative Harry Pulteney. Henrietta was raised to a countess in her own right in 1803 and inherited also the estates of her father in 1805, worth about £50,000 per year. She predeceased her husband in 1808 and Murray survived her for three years, dying in Buckenham in Norfolk, from complications after losing an eye when a powder flask accidentally exploded in his face. He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his halfbrother John.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir William Pulteney 5th Baronet
October 1729 – 30 May 1805


William Pulteney

Sir William Pulteney 5th Baronet was a Scottish advocate, landowner and politician. He was reputedly the wealthiest man in the Great Britain. He invested in lands in North America, and in developments in Great Britain, including the Pulteney Bridge and other buildings in Bath, buildings on the sea-front at Weymouth in Dorset, and roads in his native Scotland.

He was a patron of architect Robert Adam and civil engineer Thomas Telford.

William Johnstone, as he was born, was the second son of Sir James Johnstone, 3rd Baronet of Wester Hall, Dumfries, and his wife Barbara Murray, the oldest sister of the literary patron Patrick Murray, 5th Lord Elibank.

His older brother was the soldier and politician Sir James Johnstone, 4th Baronet. His younger brothers included the politician and naval officer George Johnstone and the East India Company official John Johnstone. Alexander Murray of Elibank, a Jacobite, was his uncle.

He studied law, became a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1751, and went on to become an eminent advocate. He lived in Edinburgh and associated with several major figures of the country’s learned society, including philosopher and historian David Hume, political philosopher and economist Adam Smith, and architect Robert Adam. He was a first cousin of Patrick Ferguson.

On 10 November 1760, he married heiress Frances Pulteney. Frances was the third daughter of MP and government official Daniel Pulteney and first cousin once removed of William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath. She inherited William’s substantial fortune and estates close to Bath in Somerset after his death in 1764 and that of his younger brother and heir in 1767. On inheriting, Johnstone changed his name in 1767 to Pulteney. Simultaneously, his daughter’s name was also changed from Henrietta Laura Johnstone to Henrietta Laura Pulteney.

At that time Bath was expanding, but the Pulteneys’ rural Bathwick estate was separated from the city by the River Avon, and with no bridge in place the only means of crossing the river was via a small ferry. They decided a bridge needed to be built, and Pulteney turned to his friend and fellow countryman, architect Robert Adam. Adam was influenced by his travels to Florence and Venice and proposed a bridge incorporating shops along both sides. This was completed in 1773, but the Pulteneys’ original plans for Bath’s expansion did not take effect until 1788 when Bath architect Thomas Baldwin started to create a new estate. As well as the bridge bearing his name, Pulteney’s involvement is recalled by Great Pulteney Street in Bathwick, reputed to be the longest boulevard of its kind in Europe, while Henrietta Street was named after his daughter.

Pulteney represented Cromarty and later Shrewsbury, where he usually resided, in seven successive Parliaments. He first but unsuccessfully contested the Shrewsbury seat in 1768, but subsequently won the seat for Cromarty. In 1774 he again contested Shrewsbury, and although he was defeated, he was returned on petition the following March (and retained the seat until his death in May 1805).

On 1 June 1782, Frances died, leaving him her fortune.

Pulteney invested in land in the West Indies and in what is today western New York state. The settlements of Bath, Pulteney, Henrietta and Caledonia are evidence of his speculation at the end of the 18th century, through ‘The Pulteney Association’ an agency run by his agent Charles Williamson.

In 1783, Pulteney began working with Thomas Telford, later the most eminent civil engineer of his day. When Pulteney first met him, Telford was a young stonemason from the same parish of Westerkirk in Dumfries, who had travelled to London to seek work. In 1787, Pulteney commissioned Telford to design and supervise restoration works at Shrewsbury Castle, and helped his appointment as Surveyor of Public Works for Shropshire.

Later, as Governor of the British Fisheries Society, Pulteney appointed Telford to design the world’s then largest herring fishing port, at Wick in Caithness. The village was named Pulteneytown and is the location of the Old Pulteney whisky distillery.

Pulteney was also influential in Telford’s 1801 appointment to devise a master plan to improve communications in the Highlands of Scotland, a massive project that was to last 20 years.

Pulteney also took a lively interest in many other engineering projects, including that of Bell Rock lighthouse, supporting a bill in 1803.

He succeeded to the Johnstone baronetcy in 1794 on the death of his elder brother James Johnstone. He was thus titled 5th Baronet Pulteney, having declined several offers of a peerage during his parliamentary career.

In 1804 Pulteney married, as his second wife, Margaret, widow of Andrew Stuart and daughter of Sir William Stirling. The marriage did not last long. Pulteney died intestate at Bath House in Piccadilly, London, on 30 May 1805, and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

His daughter, (Henrietta) Laura, was created 1st Baroness of Bath on 26 July 1792 and 1st Countess of Bath on 26 October 1803. In 1794, she had married her father’s first cousin Sir James Murray, who had taken the name Murray-Pulteney. She died on 14 July 1808 without bearing children and her titles became extinct.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Laura Pulteney 1st Countess of Bath
26 December 1766 – 14 July 1808


Laura Pulteney

Born Henrietta Laura Johnstone, she was the only child of the wealthy William Johnstone, later Sir William Pulteney, 5th Baronet, and his wife, Frances Pulteney, daughter of Daniel Pulteney.

When her mother inherited the estate of her kinsman, Harry Pulteney (who had previously inherited them from William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath) in 1767, her parents took the name Pulteney. They moved to Bath House on Piccadilly, where she spent her childhood.

On her mother’s death in 1782, she inherited the vast Pulteney estates. Initially educated at home, Pulteney completed her education at the convent of Montparnasse in Paris in 1783. There she was visited by her kinswoman, the Countess of Hopetoun, her friend Lady Belmore and the Countess of Dundonald, the latter of whom introduced her to Parisian society.

As a young woman, Pulteney spent time at Sudborough in Northamptonshire (later endowing a school there as well as in Clewer, Berkshire) where her neighbour was Archibald Alison, to whom she agreed to be a godmother to his son, William.

Although Pulteney’s father never sought political office, he did procure a peerage for her and she was created Baroness of Bath, in the County of Somerset, in 1792, aged twenty-six. Despite her mother’s family having previously held the earldom of Bath until its extinction in 1764, a marquessate of Bath had been created for the 3rd Viscount Weymouth in 1789. Some peers attempted to have her peerage cancelled due to the unprecedented use of the same place name in two separate peerages for separate people. This was rejected and she was further elevated as Countess of Bath, in the County of Somerset, in 1803. In 1794, she married her father’s first cousin, Sir James Murray, 7th Baronet who took the additional surname of Pulteney.

When Lady Bath’s father died, his estate was divided between her and his second wife. Lady Bath inherited two thirds including property in England and America. She died just over three years later in 1808, possibly from consumption and was buried in the south cloister of Westminster Abbey. As she had no children, her titles became extinct.

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