Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Countess and the Coachman

Following on from my posts about Cresswell village, I thought I'd share the connection and context of a scandalous tale reported in the newspapers in the early 20th century. 

Emma Sophia Georgiana Denman was born on 22 June 1845 at Torrington Square, London. Her mother was Emma Jones, and her father the Honourable Richard Denman, a son of the first Baron Denman of Dovedale. Emma's father was a barrister.

In October 1872 the engagement was announced between Emma and Captain Oswin Cumming Baker-Cresswell. The couple went on to marry on 31 October of the same year at Singleton, a village outside Chichester, Sussex. There was a great celebration throughout the bridegroom's native Northumberland, and flags were shown all over his family's estate. There was rejoicing at the Baker-Cresswell's family home of Harehope Hall also.


The engagement announcement of Oswin C. Baker-Cresswell
 and Emma S. G. Denman
Emma gave birth at Harehope Hall on 8 November 1874 to the son and heir, Addison Francis Baker-Cresswell. Only a few years later the family moved to another of their homes; Cresswell Hall, just outside the village of Cresswell, Northumberland.

There was much sadness for the family in February 1886 when Emma's husband, Oswin, died whilst staying in London. 

In September 1892 Emma married again, to Henry George Liddell, 2nd Earl of Ravensworth. They married at St Bartholomew's church, Cresswell, which was beautifully decorated for the occasion. The married couple went to Eslington Park, near Whittingham, Northumberland for their honeymoon. Emma was now styled the Countess of Ravensworth


The marriage announcement of the 2nd Earl of Ravensworth,
to Mrs. Baker-Cresswell.
The Earl of Ravensworth sat in the House of Commons for a period of time, as one of two representatives for Northumberland South. He was a Conservative politician. At the death of his father, Henry succeeded to the earldom and entered the House of Lords.

The 2nd Earl of Ravensworth died on 22 July 1903 at Eslington Park, after having been in failing health for some months. Only three weeks before, he had left the family seat of Ravensworth Castle with Emma, for a short stay at Eslington Park. After Henry's death, Emma, now the Dowager Countess of Ravensworth, returned to Cresswell to be with her children. 

In April 1904, Emma married at St George's, Hanover Square, for a third time, to James William Wadsworth. Mr. Wadsworth was Emma's coachman. James was said to be a handsome young man of 28 years, and Emma was 60. After the wedding it is thought James resumed his duties as coachman to Emma


The Scandalous Lady R.
Emma and James spent many happy years together, but due to objections and pressure from family, they eventually separated. James emigrated to America and became a butler. 

Emma died in early 1939 at the grand old age of 93. She was still holding parties only weeks before her death. The social scandal was resurrected by the British media at her death. Emma still styled herself as the Dowager Countess of Ravensworth, and insisted on calling her car a "carriage".


The death of the Countess of Ravensworth.

Perhaps Downton Abbey isn't as far-fetched as first thought.