The adventures of James Spittal… Valenciennes

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JS 17b 8 Oct JS 17c 8 Oct JS 18a 8 Oct JS 18b 8 Oct

8 October

We started from Brussels at 12 o’clock precisely and arrived at the city of Mons 8 October to breakfast where instead of seeing Tea & Coffee, eggs etc waiting us, we found a dinner prepared which for breakfast could not go down, we therefore demanded tea, coffee etc for which knowing we were British they tried to impose by charging 2 ½ franks equal to 2/1 – being aware of their tricks on travellers (particularly from our Country) we paid them with 15d or one frank and a half.

Leaving Mons at 12 o’clock we reached the limits of Belgium and entered France at a place called ______ [blank in diary] when we were  stopt at the barrier and the baggage taken out of the coach or messageree that it might be exposed to the searchers who there examine every carriage that arrives in France, in order to prevent Contraband goods being carried into the Kingdom – Passing on our journey the next town of consequence we came to and the first in paint of consequence in France was Valenciennes where we arrived about five o’clock, ordered dinner at half past six. We employed the interim in viewing the town which is one of the places of the greatest strength in the Kingdom, which the British in 1793 attempted to seduce with an Army under the Duke of York who was unsuccessful and of late was not even taken by the Allies but surrendered by Capitualation to Louis 18th. Louis has not taken possesion of it, but the National Guard are doing the duty of the City in hs name. We walked round the ramparts and viewed the citadel at a distance – we were not allowed however to enter therein. The guards are not only very strict but have a very great suspicion of any person who enters into the City. The passports are all minutely examined and the names of every stranger passing through it taken down. We returned to dinner and slept there during the night.

(In Valenciennes we walked into a church where we saw high mass performing for the soul of a departed child whose corps we met going to be buried just as we entered the city.)

Come back tomorrow to keep tabs on where James went next…

The adventures of James Spittal… Waterloo

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JS 13b 7 Oct JS 13c 7 Oct JS 14 7 Oct JS 15 7 Oct JS 16 7 Oct JS 17a 7 Oct

7 October

Next morning Saturday 7 October got up at six o’clock and at 8 hired a Cabriolet [carriage] (Gig) and set out for Waterloo distant about 12 miles. We arrived there a little after ten o’clock and the moment we came to the place called Mount St Jean, we fell in with DeCosta the Peasant whom Bonapartes Generals seized and kept with them during the whole of the 18th June (the day of the great battle) in order to point out to him the different situations of the Country – DeCosta described to us the every circumstance relative to the battle and carried us to the different situations which had been occupied during the various days in which the battles were fought. We were taken to the farm house (* Hugumont) where the dreadful slaughter took place – 4000 British defending that farm yard against 16,000 of the French – The French to the number of 600 forced a passage three times and took possession, but when the English percieved that they fired into the houses a number of Congreve Rockets which burnt the place and destroyed hundreds of the French Army.

*Behind this house is a pile of the ashes of the French that were burnt after the battle.

We went also to the farm house called Belle Alliance, which was chiefly in possession of Bonaparte, but after the battle of the 18th about nine at night Duke Wellington and Prince Blucher met there by accident and enhanced each other on the glorious termination of this dreadful and eventful day. Near to Hay Sainse saw a great number of graves.

Returning from thence by the Village of Waterloo we arrived in Brussels at ½ past three- we went then to the minister of Justice to get back our passports which had been delivered up on our arrival here, but were too late, had therefore to return about 7 o’clock when we obtained them with liberty to proceed to Paris. This being done we took our places in the diligence for Paris which leaves this at 12 P.M. then went and viewed the town, and the Hotel D’Ville or Stadthouse, which is a most extensive building with a grand and lofty spire 364 feet high likewise the Church of St Gadule [Gudule], the interior of which surpasses in magnificence almost anything of the kind we had seen. The grand paintings, altar pieces and scripture pieces in superb tapestry exceeded all I had ever seen, hundreds go there to worship every day& the candles seem to burn continually.

The park, the palace and the House of the States General are all much elegant and the town upon the whole of quite a superior cast. We visited the Theatre about an hour which appeared but very indifferent – There are two Theatres the one French & the other English in the place. About half past eleven o’clock we set out to the Coach office and to our great surprise then found entering the same carriage for Paris, Mr & Mrs Paterson Canaan Cottage, and Mrs McDonald, Miss Saunders and a Dr Oswald there were other two young gentlemen, one Scotch the other Irish making in whole nine British Subjects in company in one Coach and by the time we reached Perrone our number was increased to ten by a young gentleman from England joining us – The vehicle only contains twelve both inside and out, a most dreadful machine something between a waggon and coach with a dacky or cabr[i]olet in front for three, a basket behind for goods and an Imperial on the top. On which the Conductor or Guard sits – five horses before, the postilion [coach driver] sitting on one of them, with powdered hair, que, and Sack boots- the whole forming a most grotesque appearance.

After today’s adventures, James could not face his breakfast – come back tomorrow to find out more…

The adventures of James Spittal…Antwerp

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JS 11b 6 Oct JS 11c 6 Oct JS 12 6 Oct JS 13a 6 Oct

6 October

Next morning Friday 6th October we set out from Breda exactly at 5 o’clock AM in a monstrous large machine as before, drawn by five horses, three abreast in front – so large inside that it looks more like the cabin of a ship than the interior of a coach – we travelled ate the rate of five miles an hour till we came to:

Antwerp, that ancient and celebrated city the great arsenal and Key of the Netherlands; visited the great church the steeple of which is said to be 454 feet high, saw in it a great many altars and candles burning by them, which  is the case all hours of the day and throughout the church in various places Catholics were kneeling in devotion in succession, this seems to go on perpetually. At the corner of all the principal streets the Image of the Virgin Mary and our Saviour is fixed to which the Catholics bow as they pass – in this City is contained many Nunneries and Monasteries – We went to view the Arsenal wherein was contained vast quantities of stores collected by Buonaparte as well as a grand fleet of ships with which he intended to invade England, and which the Walcheren expedition was intended to wrest from him had they been successful – leaving Antwerp at ½ past two we proceeded in the coach and at 5 o’clock PM arrived at:

Mecklin [Mechelen, Belgium] a extensive and populous town in which is a very large Cathedral which has an immense spire. This place is famous for fine lace which is its principal article of manufacture; leaving that place after changing horses we proceeded twelve miles further to Brussells where we arrived about 8 o’clock but found much difficulty in procuring lodgings. We went in a Fracre (hackney coach) it being a wet night to most of the Hotels in town before we could find one in which there were room – all were full and had been so for months, at last we found lodgings in the Hotel De la Holland, where we were very comfortable;


Come back tomorrow when James reaches the famous battle sight at Waterloo…

The adventures of James Spittal…Breda

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JS 10c 5 Oct JS 10d 5 Oct JS 11a 5 Oct

5 October

Next morning 5th October set out in the Voiture a machine somewhat betwixt a wagon and a coach, it contained 10 inside and 3 out. We travelled from 7am till six in the evening when we arrived at Breda another large and completely fortified City containing 3000 soldiers at present – on our way hither we passed Gorcum [city of Gorinchem, also known as Gorkum] and another fortified town – indeed all the places here of any consequence must be fortified, it is so much the seat of war. On our arrival we went to the Bureaux or Coach office and secured places in the diligence for Antwerp which leaves this in the morning at 5 o’clock. N.B. in all the towns we came to, where we had to sleep particularly; we had to subscribe a written account of ourselves and present our passports – On entering Breda the coach was searched and all our luggage examined.

Tomorrow will see James entering Antwerp…


The adventures of James Spittal…Utrecht

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JS 10b 4 Oct

4 October

At one we set out in the Treckschuit for that large fortified city Utrecht where we arrived about 8pm. Went to the hotel ‘Arms of Antwerp’ where we were comfortably lodged for the night.

For a slightly busier day in James’ diary come back tomorrow…!

The adventures of James Spittal…the King’s yacht

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JS 8c 3 Oct JS 9 3 Oct JS 10a 3 Oct

3 October

Next morning October 3 before breakfast went to the naval yard of the King, saw a pleasure boat building for the Emperor of Russia: went on board the Kings Yacht: visited the Cabinet of models, representing ships in all stages from building on the stocks to sailing at sea – this was a most interesting sight and also the flags of all the Allied powers. After this returned to breakfast quite fatigued – ordered a carriage, a sort of callash or car with two horses, drove through the town and round its walls. Returned to the Kings palace or Stadthouse which we went and viewed: in it is contained a grand magazine of paintings, many of very superior execution, walked through the King & Queen’s apartments – the grand ballroom exceeds in point of beauty anything of the kind I ever saw – it is 110 feet long about 40 broad and 50 high, the mirrors & lustres beyond description, elegant, and the furniture most superb.  On the top of the building is a steeple in which is a grand chime of bells – being there at half past one, we heard them play the tune of the Prince of Orange. At 3 o’clock went to the exchange where 5000 people were huddled together in a square so crowded that there was no walking between them – there all business is settled and the Excahnge fixed between Amsterdam and all foreigne countries – finding we could not get our passports examined in time, we had to remain another night in Amsterdam and not until next day 4th October at 12 o’clock


The adventures of James Spittal…Haarlem

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JS 7b 2 Oct JS 7c 2 Oct JS 8a 2 Oct JS 8b 2 Oct

Haarlem 2 October

A most beautiful place about 16 miles further on: arrived ½ past ten – breakfasted – got a fine boy, son of the Inkeeper, who showed us all the town –

First Taylors Museum in which is a vast number of Birds, Beasts, Insects, Minerals, fossils, Mathematical instruments etc. Next went to see the Palace of the Prince of Orange & Duchess of Brunswick a most splendid mansion built by Mr Hope the late merchant Amsterdam, the staircase of solid marble, the grand drawing room of which the floor formed an elegant design in indented wood – no carpets – the chandeliers were most superb and the furniture much after the English taste. Afterwards went to the grand square wherein is the Stadhouse  and in the centre of the square stands the statue of Laurence Coster the famous inventor of printing. Visited the Church of St Bavo the largest on Holland and the Organ the grandest in Europe; which cost in fitting up £10.000 – we caused it be played which cost 18/. It performed during one hour most enchantingly – at 4 o’clock PM set out in the Treckscuit for Amsterdam.

A distance of 10 miles from Haarlem- we arrived there at 7 after taking up our lodgings at the Gold Bible kept by Mr Catermole. In the evening set out with a guide to the Theatre the sight of which to a stranger was most interesting to see all the Dutch people each in their dress costume. The play was the Magpie and the Maid which seemed to go off very well.

Come back tomorrow to read about grand ballrooms in the King’s apartments…

The adventures of James Spittal…and the King of Holland

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JS 5b JS 5c JS 6 JS 7a

1 October

Next morning set out with a valet Di Place as our guide – walked through the town – saw many elegant houses of the nobility – went to the villages of Schieveling on the German Ocean about 2 miles from the Hague, where we saw 60 fishing smacks lying on the beach; we saw the wall od sand which surrounds Holland and keeps out the sea – Returning to breakfast after which we went to visit the Palace of the King of Holland called Orangecial (Orangehall) a most beautiful villa in which is contained some very fine painting connected with the history of the family. At 12 o’clock set out in the Treckscuit for Leyden.

A distance of about 12 miles we arrived there about 4 o’clock – ordered dinner at 7 got a valet di Place to show us all the curiosities of this beautiful city – first the stadt house wherein is contained some very fine paintings, particularly that of Brutus witnessing the execution of his two sons, who had conspired against the state. This is in the Judgement Hall. The spire above this house is an immense height, and has a beautiful chime of bells. In this city a boat loaded with gunpowder exploded in 1807 which destroyed 2000 people and 182 houses. The site is now an open field – went to the Botanic Garden – saw the most wonderful collection of plants 6000 in number of species among the rest a palm tree 242 years old and an Aloe 99 years which will blossom when it attains its hundredth year. Statue of Julius and Augustus Caesar – In the university 800 students. The Rhine passes thro’ this city. Saw a Roman tower in which contained a labyrinth of trees – next morning at six o’clock set out for the city of Haarlem.

Check in tomorrow for James Spittal’s Harlem highlights…

The adventures of James Spittal…Rotterdam, Delft & The Hague

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JS 4 JS 5a

Saturday 30 September

Next morning walked through a great part of the town and returned to breakfast – went out again in the forenoon – previous to which we had our passports sent to the Commissary who indorsed them with permission to proceed to Amsterdam.


Rotterdam is a very beautiful town, the people very cleanly in their habits, but very uncouth in their dress, particularly the women – wearing great quantities of petticoats large fan shaped hats lined with damask long tapered waists, wooden shoes etc etc

After dinner set out in the Treckschuite [Treckscuit meaning a draw-boat] for Delft

 Delft 30 September

Once a popular place and extensive manufactories of earthenware, but now there are only two manufactories and the population which was once about 20,000 is now reduced to about 12,000 – The town is very extensive and has some fine streets particularly the one in the Centre through the midst of which there runs a canal and rows of trees planted on each side, passing from Delft about 7 o’clock we proceed again into another Treckschuite [Treckscuit] for The Hague: the residence of the King of the Netherlands where we arrived about eight at night – went to the Hotel called the ‘Martial Turnenne’ drank tea and went early to bed.

James Spittal continues his journey tomorrow, and if you come back you will hear all about botanic gardens and the King of Holland…

The adventures of James Spittal…Rotterdam

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JS 3

Rotterdam 29 September

Dressed and set out to walk through the city with a guide, went to several places and in particular the Lutheran Church where we saw several monuments and among then number that of Admiral Van Tromp – ascended the Belfray which is prodigiously high, saw and heard a very fine chime of Bells. We paid 18 ½ stuivers- the man demanded three times that sum but considering it an imposition we would not pay more – at 7 o’clock returned to dinner, where we had a most excellent one served up quite in the English stile – The landlady as well as the waiters spoke English remarkably well. At 9 went out to see the streets in Candlelight – they are lighted by lamps hung across in the middle which with much fewer in number has a more brilliant effect than being attached to houses – found out an English Coffee House, went into it and had some coffee and saw the English newspaper, returned and went to bed between 10 & 11 o’clock

We will be back tomorrow for some more of James Spittal’s travel updates…