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Oglethorpe: Between Heaven and Hell

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Oglethorpe’s tree-fronted home is shown at the right on the northeast edge of Old Palace Yard.

He lived halfway between Heaven and Hell, Georgia founder James Edward Oglethorpe. His front steps on London’s St. Margaret Lane were downwind of the King’s fish yard that occupied a courtyard that opened a few houses to his right. The subsequent air often fogged his parlor and bedrooms with acrid, pungent punctuated smells that mixed with the sounds of morning-barking fishmongers, street merchants, and neighborhood workers. Around them, the clatter of knocking, squeaking wagons and carts rolled along the lane, bouncing over sparsely patched islands of free-stone pavers that dotted the long-furrowed thoroughfare.

At the far end of the market behind the rows of salmon, trout, and eel-laden stalls was the location of Hell, an eatery and watering hole once frequented by poet Ben Johnson and ridiculed by diarist Sir William Pepys.  The main entrance lured its customers down a stairway from the interior of Westminster Hall the way hookers call salesmen from an Amsterdam window — liquor lubricates opposition tongues.  It was known for being a “petty-tavern,” a gathering spot frequented by parliament’s lowly law clerks who boozed in a basement hollow that once housed the Kings’ torture chamber, thus warranting the Hadean label.

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The Old and New Palace yards with Oglethorpe’s home marked with the red dot.

According to Pepys, the tavern was a “resort of disreputable characters and the most raffish of lawyers’ clerks.”  South, across the street to left of Oglethorpe’s house was Heaven, a more, but little more, up-scale tavern in a line of ramshackle brick and Tudor buildings running from west to east.  They blocked his view of the greater part of the Old Palace Yard like listing and leaning hung-over sailors lined across a deck of an outbound schooner. 

From there a few feet to the left and diagonally across the lane was another tavern, the Naked Boy and Star, which held the ground beside Westminster Abbey.  It served a slightly-more upscale clientele, Members of Parliament, poets, businessmen, lobbyists, and the occasional well-known Londoner.  Other Taverns in the area carried the trend with the names, Purgatory and Paradise.  A few doors away from the Star, at the corner of the Abbey, Geoffrey Chaucer had once lived in an upstairs flat near “The Poet’s Corner” where he was later interred.

Stepping from his portico, Oglethorpe’s route was “incommodious” as writer Henry Miles penned, noting that the lane in front of his home had “a paling of four feet high… placed between its single footpath and the carriageway, to protect the passenger from the carriages and the mud which they splashed on all sides in abundance.”  The wealthy in London, like everyone else, existed in a world of noise, foul smells, dust, mud, filth, and strewn garbage.  James held that rank in society — wealthy.

– Excerpt from an upcoming book by JD Byous

 

Sources

William Maitland et al, The History and Survey of London From Its Foundation to the Present Time: in Two Volumes, Book II, 1756, p 793: Rev. Mackenzie E. C. Walcott, M.A., Memorials of Westminster the City, Royal Palaces, Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, St. Peters’s College, the Parish Churches, Worthies, Streets, Modern Buildings, and Ancient Institutions, 1851, p 221.

Henry Downes Miles, The Life of Richard Palmer: Better Known as Dick Turpin…, London, p 79, 1839.

John Thomas Smith, Antiquities of the City of Westminster, London, 1807 p 68; Henry Downes Miles, The Life of Richard Palmer Better Known as Dick Turpin the Notorious Highwayman and Robber, 1839 p 79.

Henry Miles, The Life of Richard Palmer, London, p 78, 1839.

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James Oglethorpe and the American Revolution

 

 

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James Oglethorpe Monument, Chippewa Square, Savannah, GA.

Interesting guy, James Oglethorpe, Englishman, MP and Major General in the British Army,  He was tough and courageous having once put down a squad of firearm-carrying mutineers armed only his sword.  He said of the Crown’s conduct at the time of the American Revolution, “[they have taken] …the occasion to animate us against one another. The English in Britain, against the Scots in Britain, against the English-born in America. To blind the people here, they unjustly call them Americans. The expense of this jealousy will weaken us much… the troops and Fleets sent over & the separating and making useless to us near three-millions of subjects in America completes the blow, which they hope will be a means to facilitate their execution of the division of Europe….” James Oglethorpe was the only founder of a British American Colony that lived to see it become an independent state and part of the United States of America.

He, like many other Brits, understood the American Revolution and the exasperation of the citizens there.  He too had been frustrated by the lack of understanding by the Crown, Parliament, and the people of Great Britain.  Most did not see the problems of the colonies and of the colonialist who had to deal with slow communication, no representation, and class disdain.  All of which Oglethorpe experienced during his decade in Georgia.  Though loyal to his country, he was one of the first in London to welcome John Adam, the first Ambassador from the new American nation. It was weeks before his death in June of 1785.  Adams later became the second President of the United States.

– JD Byous

 

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Southbeach, Tybee Island, Georgia

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Southbeach at sunrise, Tybee Island, Georgia.

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Ogeechee Canal

The Ogeechee Canal was completed in 1830 and ran from the Ogeechee River to the Savannah River at the city of Savannah, Georgia.  Today it is a backwater that has been filled in in multiple locations.  This image is in Savannah along West Boundary Road where the canal runs under the old Central of Georgia Railroad bridges from the same era.

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The Ogeechee Canal. ©J Byous Company, 2019.

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Panama Retrospect

A young Panamanian mother from a jungle settlement carries her sick child to the El Piro clinic for examination by volunteer doctors from the United States.  Some Guaymi (Ngobe) people walked for three days to find medical care.

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A young Panamanian mother from a jungle settlement carries her sick child to the El Piro clinic for examination by volunteer doctors from the United States.  Circa 1999. ©J D Byous, 2019.

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Bonaventure Cemetery

Savannah, Georgia’s Bonaventure Cemetery, once was a weekend destination for picnics and weekend outings, had its own trolley station.  Today the site is also known as the

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A carnation marks the grave of Johnny Mercer.

 Garden of Good and Evil after a book was published on the city’s odd characters of the 1970s.  Today it the necropolis is a tourist stop featuring the final resting places of the city’s notable people from history like the grave of songwriter and lyricist, Johnny Mercer.

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A monument watches over graves among the oaks and Spanish moss.

© J Byous Company, 2019, all rights reserved

 

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Cripple Creek

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Main Street in Cripple Creek, Colorado after a rain.

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