The Boscawens at Hatchlands Park

A portrait of Admiral Boscawen

The Hon. Edward and Frances Boscawen built the house at Hatchlands Park. They fell in love with the estate and patiently waited for it to come up for sale. Despite only spending a period of about 20 years at Hatchlands, the Boscawens were instrumental in creating the family home and safe haven from urban life that still stands here today.

Frances Evelyn Glanville was born on July 23, 1719. Her wealthy mother sadly died in childbirth and when her father remarried, much of Fanny’s childhood was spent away from the family home being looked after by relatives. It was during a stay with a Sir John Evelyn at Wotton House, that she first met Sir John’s brother in law, Edward Boscawen, a 29 year old Captain in the Navy. 
 
Fanny looked forward to seeing this ‘unusually attractive and distinguished looking sailor’ - a time that she refers to in a letter to Edward as, ‘when you and I loved each other and told it only by our eyes’. They were married late in 1742, before he set sail again. In total, Edward was away for almost 10 years of their marriage. 
 

A respected husband and wife

Edward had begun his career in the Navy at the ripe old age of 12, setting sale for the Caribbean aboard the HMS Superb. He was swiftly promoted and finished his career as an Admiral of the Blue fleet and a celebrated war hero, having played a full part in one of the most turbulent periods of British naval history.
 
A portrait of Frances Boscawen
A portrait of Frances Boscawen
A portrait of Frances Boscawen

Frances, known to her friends as Fanny, was a strong, intelligent and independent woman which was unusual for a woman in the 18th century society. In the 1750s she became a founder member of the Blue Stockings Society, a group credited with preserving and advancing feminism by advocating education for women and helping to publish their work.

Her command of the written and spoken word was widely known in literary London and her letters were prized for her wit and understanding. ‘Her conversation is the best of any lady with whom I ever had the happiness to be acquainted’, noted James Boswell is his Life of Johnson.

Life in letters

Edward kept her letters and her journal close, they travelled with him to India and home again, narrowly escaping going down with his flagship. Fanny wrote to Edward almost daily, keeping him up to date with her search for the perfect home.
 
A letter from Fanny Boscawen to Hannah More
A letter from Fanny Boscawen to Hannah More
A letter from Fanny Boscawen to Hannah More

Her heart was set on Hatchlands, but it was not for sale. She wrote of other locations, ‘by the way, I hear is to be sold, but not knowing whether you would like it or the country about it, I have made no enquiries, my heart still fixed at Hatchlands’. Eventually Hatchlands did come on to the market and thanks to the considerable amounts of prize money that Edward’s had amassed, they commissioned the house you see today, built ‘at the expense of his enemies’. 

Fanny’s letters detailed the progress of their new house. She described the deal she’d managed to get on bricks, ‘a shilling cheaper than I expected to get them’ and progress on the building, ‘your son has galloped to Hatchlands this morning. Says it is very high, the last scaffolding up and looks just ready for the roof’. She was particularly proud of plans for her garden walk, ‘I will just deign to tell you that I have purple lilacs, yellow laburnums, white Gelder roses, fine red cinnamon roses’.

A sad end

The Admiral was not able to enjoy the fruits of his and Fanny’s labour for long. While at sea, off the east coast of France near Quiberon Bay, he suffered an attack of typhoid fever. He was brought ashore and transported to Hatchlands where Fanny nursed him constantly. 
 
Her friend Elizabeth Montagu wrote ‘The noble Admiral does not fight so well with a fever as he does with the French; he will not lie in bed, where he would sooner subdue it.’
 
Edward died in January of 1761, just 2 years after Hatchlands was completed, with his wife at his bedside.