Saturday 21 May 2016

George - Turnham Green and the great Lord Heathfield

The next episode described in George Landmann's  rather rambling childhood memories takes place in west London, far from Woolwich.  It raises some interesting questions about his father, Isaac Landmann's, past and his rather exalted connections.  It describes visits, and events around the important figure of Lord Heathfield.

George Augustus Elliott was remarkable for his distinguished military career - and to my mind illustrates the pan-European nature of the 18th century. He was clearly a great man - and, unusually for this period, a vegetarian and a teetotaller.  He had been born in Scotland, was at the University at Leiden in Holland, studied at the French Ecole Militaire, and served with the Prussian Army,. He became ADC to George II and by 1775 was a Privy Councillor. As Governor of Gibralter he withstood the Great Siege by the French and Spanish for four years and returned to England, a national hero.

Where in this time did he encounter Isaac Landmann who - from George's account - seems to have been a personal friend.  In 1779 the, by then, Lord Heathfield had bought a grand house on Turnham Green, to become known as Heathfield House. The house stood at the west end of what is still called Heathfield Road and occupied the site of what is now Chiswick Fire Station.  This was where ten year old George Landmann stayed as a guest of the family. 

Landmann's main account of events at Heathfield House concern the celebrations  in 1789 for the recovery of George III from his first bout of illness. The king attended a great thanksgiving service in St.Paul's Cathedral and Heathfield put on a grand show in Turnham Green. Fireworks were prepared by the Royal Artillery with a 'large fire ball' on the top of the house. There was a roast ox 'stuffed with potatoes' on Turnham Green and free beer for whoever wanted it. Isaac drew and distributed sketches of the event.  Just after five in the evening the King's entourage came along main return as he returned to Kew Palace. At that the fireworks were set off with some problems concerning the fireball. Lord Heathfield - by then in a wheelchair - raised a toast and the King waved and saluted from his coach.

While this was all very exciting for a young boy - this was not all of the relationship with Heathfield. George describes accompanying him in his carriage when they stopped to chat to a local baker. He described Heathfield's library, full of kittens, and other domestic events.  He related episodes of Heathfield's interactions with soldiers, servants, and local people and some of his eccentricities.

A year later in 1790 Isaac took young George to a grand dinner with the Polish Ambassador.  The other participants were a Polish General (unknown identity), and including General Roy (who laid the foundations for the Ordnance Survey); Colonel Elliott (Heathfield's son), and Sir William Fordyce (Scottish doctor,soldier and FRS) .

Heathfield died in 1790 at Aix la Chapelle during a trip on which he had asked Isaac to accompany him.  Before he left he gave Katherine - George's mother - his crimson ribbon from his investiture as a Knight of the Bath, in Gibralter.  George kept this all his life - but there are no answers as to why he gave it to her and what past relationships had been between the Landmanns and Heathfield. Do the roots of it lie somewhere in his European education and career - he was much older than them, did he perhaps know their parents and history??

All of this goes to show George Landmann growing up surrounded and known by powerful and influential people. These people may well have had a good start in life from wealthy and aristocratic backgrounds but their careers and what they made of then, even given these advantages, were their own, What did he learn from  them?

British History Online. Chiswick
Landmann. Adventures and Recollections
Treasure. Who's Who in early Hanoverian Britain
Wikipedia - as expedient

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