The Sterley's of Oakland Park

Chapter 9
A London visit

 “Lady St Vincent told me of a certainty that when next we are in London that we must call upon her and his Lordship” said Lady Ann. “It is indeed gratifying that you made there acquaintance” replied Sir Thomas once more warming his hands over the fire.

“I t came as a most welcome news to hear that they had come into the county, and to find out that they were staying with the Parkers, at Leaton well that made me decided to call upon the Parkers and make known your achievements to his lordship,” said Lady Ann

“Pray was his lordship the earl well disposed to your calling?” asked Sir Thomas growing concerned that his wife had committed another social mistake by forcing her presence upon the unsuspecting peer.

“Indeed he was most interested to hear of your part in the late wars” remarked Lady Ann Mr Parker talked at great length of your fine quality as a seaman and leader of men,” she continued. “That is most gratifying I shall call upon The Parkers directly do you perchance know if the ST Vincent’s have left the county?” asked Sir Thomas.

“I have hopes that they still might be at Leaton I have seen the new library there Mr. Parker has done a wonderful job of buying the very best of current books indeed if Lydia was with me she should have asked to see the anonymous young lady of genteel birth  collections. Although I fancy it is not a very big collection,” said Lady Ann.

“William Parker has funds aplenty to apply to the extravagances to make his home one of the best in the county” remarked Sir Thomas. “How came it that brother in law Parker came by his fortune?” asked Lady Ann.

“There is a tale in the making a self made man is our brother in Law Parker,” said Sir Thomas. “For when I knew him many years since in the navy he was but a lowly midshipman without many prospects but he married well, speculated in Sugar in the West Indies and made a fortune,” said Sir Thomas.

“You of course know that Emily’s family are extremely wealthy having made there money in the America’s some thing to do with the slave trade,” said Sir Thomas. “It changes nothing dear Emily is one of the sweetest people I know I do not believe for a moment that she was ever personally involved in that despicable trade of poor unfortunates who through no fault of there own were stolen and sold as so much of a commodity,” replied Lady Ann.

“Madam I did not insinuate that sister in law Parker was a slave trader I mentioned but the fact that her family had in former times been the proprietors of a number of slaver vessels” said Sir Thomas exasperated with his wife obstinacy.

“If the St Vincent’s be at Leaton I feel inclined to go hither with you husband” said Lady Ann changing the subject lest her husband grow angry with her. “They are such a pleasant couple one would think that they had many friends in society,” she continued.

“Nelson was and remains popular among all class of seamen but I am assured that his lordship the earl is greatly liked by many officers” said Sir Thomas. “husband he has an earldom for thanks I am sufficiently happy to know that he has done his duty to England and that he has been adequately rewarded for his part,” said Lady Ann fearing that once more her husband would fall into a state of melancholia la when considering how little he had achieved in relation to others who had served.

“Pray dear wife did you speak with Arabella on the occasion of the forthcoming nuptials?” asked Sir Thomas. “I have she was delighted to hear it but I have an idea that Tom broke the news to her before she spoke with me for she was sufficiently unsurprised as to inform of such” remarked Lady Ann. Indignant at the fact that her first born had taken it upon himself to inform the young woman of the situation.

“Lord Charles was suitably impressed with our Tom calling him my boy and giving him to understand that he could call upon him at any time for fatherly advice should it be needed,” said Sir Thomas. “I fear that I became quite indignant at the fact but as he is of superior rank I forbore his inclination to be kind to Tom and kept my peace,” said Sir Thomas.

“That insufferable man I am still quite in a state of distress on the matter of which we spoke earlier in regard to Lord Charles,” said Lady Ann.

“Arabella will as his heir inherit a substantial fortune of him,” said Sir Thomas “That I think sir is the only redeeming feature of the man,” said Lady Ann her face flushed. For she would not tolerate the man to stay even one hour in Oakland. For she was of the opinion that he had betrayed a sacred trust. Classing him as cut from the same cloth as that rouge the Earl of Waterford of whom they had heard much of a distressing nature.

Tom and Arabella found themselves wandering the garden while the aforementioned conversations between Lady Ann and Sir Thomas took place. They chanced upon

William who was industriously digging a ditch with a few workmen “Greetings brother” said Tom. “Pray what are you doing if I might make my self so bold as to ask,” enquired Tom.

“There is a certain type of grass that grows upon the banks which is of its nature more succulent and sort after by birds now I plan to make this ditch a type of bank for papa’s enjoyment for I perceive that of late he has developed a shortness of breath and a limp. I would not have him wandering far from the house unattended in search of his birds thus I bring the birds closer,” said William

“That is most thoughtful I did not notice but I shall take heed to make his life a little more comfortable” remarked Thomas.

The nuptials of Thomas and Arabella been completed in the first week of October arrangements were then put in order for there going to the Cape of Good Hope.

It had been arranged that they would take the coach to town accompanied by Sir Thomas and Lady Ann. Lord John and Lady Miriam would follow from Morton the following afternoon. Due to Lady Ann strictly forbidding Lord John and the new Lady Fit-Gibbon from staying at Oakland sir Thomas had pleaded to many guests in his house thus his Lordship and Lady Fits-Gibbon had been put up at Morton quite comfortably enjoying there stay there for a number of weeks while calling upon the inhabitants of Oakland no more then social occasions justified.

Thus on Thursday morning the newly married couple set out in the coach for London in the hope of arriving early to call upon some society friends whom they had not seen in a while.

“The coach rumbled along the road towards London within Lady Ann was addressing her new Daughter in law. “Now remember my dear that you should always allow Tom to do his scribbling for this is one of his quirks and should you choose to disallow this he can be the most unpleasant fellow”  “Indeed Mamma I have hopes of making Tom the happiest man alive, for he has certainly made me the happiest of woman” observed Arabella.

“Now Tom you will remember to write frequently for I have an expectation that you will inform us all of the events and society at the Cape” said Lady Ann.

“As circumstances allow Mamma I will endeavor to keep you fully informed” remarked Tom. “Son I hesitate to ask knowing that Lord Charles will I am sure keep you occupied for a large amount of the time you are there. However if you can find the time please observe for me the ornithology of the Cape and write to me in the most descriptive detail of there habits and the appearance” said Sir Thomas.

“I shall endeavor by all possible means to apply in this accord” replied Tom. Who was content to comply with his father wishes, for if it had not been for his papa he would not now be married to the handsomest woman he knew.

For when he considered how much his parents had done for him in regard to there efforts to find him a position in the world, and a woman with whom he could share his life he was content for he was the happiest person he knew of. True it had not been his intent to depart for the Colony but the advantages as his father had explained to him would offset the small disadvantage of not going to Italy for he considered that he could write equally well in the Cape as in Italy.

“I have sent a letter to Lady Barnard you will recall she was at the Cape for a number of years and has an extensive knowledge of the customs of the place” said Lady Ann. “A most fortuitous connection for it is always good to know the custom of parts foreign” said Sir Thomas.

“I was indeed fortunate in making her acquaintance when she returned from Africa, at that time she had much to say on the occasion of the place” remarked Lady Ann.

Arriving in London the Sterley’s made themselves comfortable in a house which they had previously hired in Oxford street. After spending the first evening at home they setout the next morning to find out all they could from some one who knew the place far better then any one they knew Lady Anne Barnard lived in a house of moderate size she had been in former times the hostess for the late Earl Macartney. Who has been some time governor of the Cape of Good Hope.

“Upon been shown into the drawing room they were met by the lady herself who’s vibrancy and allure of respectable society seldom found in London. Delighted Sir Thomas and Lady Ann for Ann Sterley had given to understand that a trust of quite some responsibility had been placed upon the shoulders of her eldest son. Lady Barnard made much of the young couple congratulating them on there resent union remarking upon her marriage to her late husband Sir Andrew.  For Lady Barnard it was indeed a rare pleasure to be called upon to impart her knowledge of the Cape to the young couple for she had been made aware of the circumstances of the young couple’s mission to the Cape. Further more she was aware of Young Tom’s desire to be a writer of romance. This had captured her imagination; indeed as the visit progressed she would take every occasion to advance Tom’s aspirations to write much to the discomfort of Sir Thomas.

When the question of Lord Charles arose it became apparent that the dear Lady did not think much of the nobleman for she was privy through private communications with longstanding friends at Cape Town of certain directions given and actions taken by the governor and these did not endower her with any measure of trust in his ability to govern that place fairly.

The old woman spoke at length of her experiences at the Cape giving young Arabella to understand that although the Dutch at the C            ape might at first seem to be a dour lot with no redeeming features one has to grow to know them over an extended period before one realizes that they are warm and friendly delighting in the simple pleasures of doing things well and working hard. For as Lady Barnard put it “there is no cozier spot then in the Dutch kitchen where woman are at work” She further more placed Arabella under an obligation to write to her of her own experiences in the Cape  thus the visit at an end Lady Anne Barnard rose and crossed to her writing table drawing from a compartment a hand full of letters she presented them to Arabella and said” My dear I have tried to make your introduction to Cape society a little more easy thus I give to some letters of introduction to some of the foremost residents of that place” Arabella made her curtsy and thanked the lady profoundly. While Lady Ann Sterley remarked on the there longstanding friendship and hoped to see Lady Barnard soon for it had been far to long since she had last been down to the country. Lady Barnard accepted the invitation and said that she would try to be at Oakland with in the next few months thus saying the Sterley’s took there leave of Lady Ann Barnard.

Having left  the home of this delightful relic and proceeded at almost one o’clock pm to there rented home to await the arrival of his Lordship who was calling to wish his daughter a safe journey for he was in great haste to make a return home before embarking on his delayed wedding holiday.

Upon there return they had scarce time to prepare before Lord Charles and Lady Miriam arrived to bit Arabella and Tom Godspeed on there journey to the Cape. The visit was a very formal one with Lady Ann maintaining a frost silence all the whilst Lord Charles was in the house, while Sir Thomas tried his best to make every one pleasantly comfortable. He could quite understand his wife’s attitude to Lord Fits-Gibbon but he did so wish that she would make it a little less obvious.

The following morning Tom and Arabella went on board HMS Ocean which was moored in the port of London in readiness to sail with the turn of the ties.

Sir Thomas and Lady Ann bid there son and new daughter a tearful good bye they remained long on the dock watching as the ship slowly made its way down river, a tear wetting the corner of there respective eye.


Thomas Sterley


Sir Thomas Sterley



 15th October 1814

 Dearest Papa,

We have reached Gibraltar we had hopes of making better speed but Captain Braithwaite has said we must proceed with caution for it has been spread abroad that Napoleon has escaped Elba as to the veracity of this statement I cannot tell. You might remember the good captain as he I believe served under your command aboard HMS Sovereign as a midshipman. He holds his current command due to the efforts of Lord Nelson under whom he served at the Nile.

Captain Braithwaite was kind enough to relate to the assembled company of your kindness and understanding of your care for the men under your command. This was greeted with great approval by the assembled company many of whom are old hands at the Cape.

Captain Braithwaite sends his warmest felicitations and was pleased to find us in his company we have dined with him on a number of occasions and I find him to be the most intelligent of men with a vast knowledge of the sea and sea lore.

Pray papa I beg you that on the instant of the birth of my nephew that you write and inform us for we are most affectionate of our sister Lydia

Give Mamma our affections and my love to all the family at Oakland

Your obedient son

Thomas Sterley


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