[ Edward Mason Wrench, private medical attendant to the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House. ] Autograph Journals, describing his life and duties at Chatsworth, and including references to Sir Joseph Paxton.

Edward Mason Wrench (1833-1912) of Baslow, Derbyshire, Assistant Surgeon, 34th Regiment of Foot and 12th Royal Lancers [ Sir Joseph Paxton; William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire; Chatsworth House]
Publication details: 
[ London and Baslow, Derbyshire. ] 4 June to 31 December 1862; 24 July 1865 to 11 July 1865; 1 January to 22 February 1866.
SKU: 17288

As befits the son of a City of London clergyman, Edward Mason Wrench was a well-educated and well-connected man (being presented to the Prince of Wales in his old age), attributes which enabled him to thrive at Chatsworth. His standing was also enhanced by an eventful army career. Wrench's obituary in the British Medical Journal (27 April 1912), describes how, after service in the Crimea, 'he was transferred to the 4th Lancers, went to Madras with that regiment in the following month, and served with it during the whole of the Indian Mutiny. For his services in India he received the Indian medal and clasp for Central India. He returned to England in 1860, and married in 1861 his cousin [Annie], daughter of Mr. William Kirke, of Markham Hall, Nottinghamshire'. A substantial collection of his papers is deposited in the University of Nottingham. As the representative extracts given below indicate, Wrench is a good-natured likeable man of liberal sentiments, the journals being written in an entertaining and spirited style, displaying natural curiosity and a good eye for a story. Wrench is also possessed of a shrewd intelligence (he notes percipiently on 27 March 1865: 'I believe 50 years hence our profession will stand much higher in the esteem of the public than it does now & we shall really be enabled to prevent as well as cure disease'). He paints a vivid picture of his Trollopian life at Chatsworth, with its constant round of both professional and social visits, the references to Sir Joseph Paxton being of particular interest. The present item comprises 107pp., 4to., with each page on a separate loose piece of ruled paper. The journals are in three sections, arranged in six bundles with brass clasps. Some passages have been marked out in light pencil, probably by a descendant (noting in the margin by an entry in June 1865: 'Very early Strawberries for Baslow'). ONE: 4 June to 31 December 1862. 20pp., paginated 1-20. (headed by Wrench: 'only 20 sheets in this year'). TWO: 24 July 1864 to 11 July 1865. 65pp., paginated 90-154. THREE: 1 January to 22 February 1866. 12pp., paginated 198-209. At the start, in June 1862, the recently-married Wrench is seeking to leave army service for private practice. The opening entries in the first section, written from London on 4 and 5 June, set the scene: 'rec[eive]d. a letter from Mr. Whitfield telling me Mr. Solly had a practice for me | [5 June] Called on Mr. Whitfield at 10, he told me he thought the practice he had written about would suit me, so I called on Mr. Solly who told me the practice was at Chatsworth & his friend Mr. Condell who had been private medical attendant to the Duke of Devonshire, now wished to come to the South of England for his wife's health. There was a beautiful house & he thought he could get me the attendance on the Duke's household. I therefore wrote to Mr. Condell & asked him further particulars, stating my own qualifications'. A week later Wrench writes: 'Left London by excursion train at 10.15 arrived at Derby at 3 where I took the ordinary train to Rowley arriving at 4.25 Heavy rain all day. Mr. Condell met me at Rowley in what he calls his Tub a most convenient little two wheeled pony carriage. On our way through Chatsworth we met Lady Louisa Cavendish driving her father through pouring rain. Immensely delighted with the house Park Lodge wh. is a beautiful Stone Italian Villa situated in a most picturesque spot at the Gate of the Park - Mr Condell wishes me to take the five acres he rents of the Duke of Rutland, and the two meadows and gardeners house that he rents of the Duke of Devonshire'. The following day he encounters the Duke of Devonshire, 'who I liked very much, a peculiarly quiet man with mild intelligent blue eyes, and great benignity of countenance. I should fancy he is religious. He talked of my services & his Son in Canada Said he was glad to get over his honors at Cambridge where he has just been made Chanciller [sic] in place of Prince Albert. Mr. Cottingham the Dukes Agent dined with us, a fine big fellow he said the Duke had expressed himself pleased with me'. As the journal proceeds Wrench is assisted by 'Coln. Oakes' in getting 'two months leave to go & see how I like Private Practice - Tunes of the 16th. has promised to do my Field duties and Dr. Baxter & Hume have forwarded my application for the favourable consideration of the Director General'. Oakes prevails on the Director General as 'a personal favour', and tells him he considers Wrench 'a loss to the service'. 23 June 1862 marks the 'End of Army Career. I must own I felt very sad at leaving. I said goodbye to most of our fellows (some to be my fellows no more) as they were getting on their horses for Parade they all said they were sorry I was going'. As Wrench gets the measure of his new practice, he appoints his servants and travels the neighbourhood 'in one of the Duke's dogcarts', making the acquaintance of the better classes, most notably Sir Thomas Paxton. Following Paxton's death he writes (15 June 1865): 'I am proud to have known Sir Joseph & regret his loss, for he was particularly kind to me. He was a bad speaker, both grammatically & oratorically & made sad havoc of his H's yet he often said very clever things to the point'. Wrench's first meeting with Paxton is on 17 December 1862, when he calls to see him and finds him 'suffering from severe influenza'. Four days later he reports that 'Sir Joseph Paxton shewed me a Japanese pill box like a Tortoise with a carved Ivory figure attached the most beautiful thing I have seen of the sort'. On 8 September 1864 he finds Paxton 'more talkative than usual. He talked about Prince Albert & said he did not think so much of him as other people. Thinks he would have either ruined the indipendance [sic] or quarred [sic] with the Prince of Wales had he lived, says that whenever he came to the Crystal Palace he seemd to fear a wigging from the Queen if he was late for lunch, but he also said his great care was lest the Queen should be overfatigued'. The following day Paxton tells a story regarding the Duke of Wellington's generosity, and criticises 'Bantings System of reducing corpulency'. 8 June 1865: 'The sad news of Sir Joseph Paxtons death arrived today He will be a great loss to all his old friends hereabouts. I fancy Lady Paxton will now reside here altogether. How fatal the last four years have been to the old Chatsworth notables. Condell. Stewart, George, old Stowe & now Sir Joseph not to mention old Hallet the Keeper &c. &c.' And five days later: 'Sir Joseph Paxtons corpse was brought down last night & the family came down today.' Paxton's funeral is on 15 June 1865, and Wrench describes the event over whole page, beginning: 'At one to the Gardens. In the dining room I met Branson & after eating some lunch accompanied him to the Dining room where we assembled. Henry & J Cottingham. Nesfield Currie, W Jackson, & some of the Directors of the Midland a very characteristic lot. All the Males of the Paxton Family except the Son George were present.' Present at the graveside are 'The Duke, Lords George Richard & Fredk. [...] Sir J will be much missed about here. He was only 61 & came here in 1826 or 7 very young - but he soon became famous & was a man whose company was worth half a crown an hour as the saying is. He was very original, very hearty, very honest & very hospitable. [...] He could scarce help being egotistical but seldom bragged of what he had done but rather was fond of saying what he could do in every emergency of the day. Of course he owed his title & his renown to his clever design for the Exhibition of 1851 though there are some in the village say Old John Marples was the real origination of that but I don't believe it, for had that never happened Sir J would have been a noted man, but old John Marples could never be anything but a clever workman.' On 10 February 1866 Paxton's widow discusses her husband's superstition: 'he always carried a little bottle of quicksilver in his pocket as a preventative against Rheumatism [...] I have heard before that Sir J would on no account sit down 13 to dinner'. Wrench is clearly diligent in his duties. At the end of the entry for 12 June 1865 he writes: 'I must have been close on 30 miles today as I often do now. I have been at work 12 hours & have not nearly seen all I ought'. During the 1866 Cattle Plague he travels the neighbourhood vaccinating cows, a process about which he becomes increasingly sceptical. On 20 October 1862 he is informed by Lord George Cavendish that he has been 'elected Surgeon to the whole Baslow District', and on 16 November he has his 'First Professional visit to Chatsworth being sent for to see Lord Frederick Cavendish'. A few days later he dines with Colonel Charles Leslie (1785-1870) of Balquhain: 'he was in the Army before the Peninsular War he is a wonderful old man. He has a great opinion of the Old Duke. He commanded the 60 rifles battery. He has had a French bullet in his leg over 40 years.' On 20 November 1862 he calls at Chatsworth, and is receives another indication of his acceptance: 'to see Lord Fredk. I was asked to see Lady Fanny Howard. On the stairs I met Lord George Cavendish who said he wished particularly to see me as he was anxious I should take the Ensigncy in the Bakewell Volunteers'. (Two and a half years later, on 15 February 1865, he writes: 'In the afternoon to drill at Bakewell. Fox absent again he has not been to drill now since July. We marched to Ashford. Stewart grumbled à la militaire & seemed to think the idea of a Chatsworth company a very good one. In the evening we had great fun composing a Valentine as an offer supposed to come from an Officer in India to Bessie, signed Samuel Shuffletommy'.) Wrench ends 1862 by contrasting his 'very happy Christmas' with 'The lonely Christmas I spent in the Bundlecund Jungle in 1859 with Shaw for my only companion'. There are several indications of Wrench's liberal sentiments. He goes 'Begging [i.e. asking for donations] for the Lancashire Distress' after hearing a sermon from 'the Principal of a Training College near Manchester' on 10 August 1862, which makes 'special mention of the dreadful distress in Lancashire caused by the Mexican War', and learning on 23 November that 'The distress now in Lancashire is terrible many thousand people are living on 1/6 or less per head per week'. On 20 March 1865 he writes: 'Met Ellis Morton & had some talk about my scheme for a dining room for the work people & Gardeners. I consider it a great disgrace & crying shame the Duke's men at Chatsworth should have to eat their dinner in the Ash holes of the furnaces, or in damp sheds actually without vegetables & always without comfort. I should have a good room with a cooking range & good oven at one end with a large <?> to keep each man's mess hot. A long table & clean cloth & a woman to cook for two hours a day & I would allow the men the surplus vegetables from the garden. I'm sure it would pay for the men would do more work as being in better health & it would certainly be a Christian act'. And on 28 April 1865: 'A man fell in the Conservatory at Chatsworth. This is the third man that has fallen in the Conservatory since it has been painting last summer outside, this year inside. It is very dangerous work'. On 31 July 1862 Wrench visits Moorseats, 'where Mr. Eyre's furniture was to be sold [...] Moorseats is the house described by Charlotte Bronte in "Jane Eyre" as Moor House'. He reports the opening of Hassop railway station: 'Coln. Leslie is full of it, he can now get from Hassop to London in 5 hours'. On 23 December 1862 he discovers that 'the Moors are to some extent artificial the late Duke having bought out several freeholders and allowed heather to grow where grass was formerly'. On 14 November 1864 he attends Lord Frederick Cavendish's new wife, 'The Bride's knee she having fallen in the garden & cut it badly. This was the first time I have seen her. I had heard she was almost plain but I don't think so, she has a most pleasing expression & very good eyes, but a curious long waistless figure. She is a daughter of Lord Lyttleton. I took the Belgian Minister in the Hall for the Valet. Adams the American Minister was in the Hall also.' Wrench's playful nature reflected in his writing: he complains of 'Gabbled prayers & Gobbled breakfast', and reminisces about 'Uncle Taylor White's love of practical jokes'. On one occasion he reports that while doing his rounds he 'felt inclined to lie down on the grass & go to sleep in the sun while my horse grazed as we used to do in the Crimea'. On 23 October 1864 he reports that 'Mothers old Butler that she got such a grand character with from Ld. Galway got very drunk, & would not go to bed when ordered, so that at last I had to take him to the Police Station & lock him up. When there he said all he wanted was a comfortable bed - so the Inspector (who was quite drunk) said he had better prick for the softest board on the guard room bed in the cell where I left him to get sober'. On visiting Stanton Workhouse he writes (10 March 1865), 'Mr. Fidler told me the Guardians propose only issuing meat to the paupers on weekly notes from the medical officer so that to order a man a lb of met I shall have to make three separate entries - in the Register, in the weekly sheet & in the new orders. I shall not submit to this imposition of clerks work without a struggle'. He describes Bakewell Fair (9 April 1865), which includes 'a Quack Doctor who was shouting at the top of his voice & offering to let the people smell his wonderful herbs', and a coach accident on 9 March 1865, in which 'the four occupants were pitched out, Pinder had his spine injured, Burgoin his legs, while young Higginbottom & the servant girl were unhurt. Pinder has died this evening, leaving a wife & five little children'. On 16 December 1862 he gives an account of a hunt: 'The Hounds met at Robin Hood bar this morning. My Brother Mervyn went to see them and saw Lord Denman on his donkey. Mervyn said They called him My Lord but I could not believe he was one'. On 27 March 1865 he visits Chatsworth 'to see Lord Edward', and notes 'the Grandeur of his room with satin & gold furniture & the very dilapidated appearance of his old horn comb & his old brushes'. On 5 May 1865 he visits his old regiment at Sheffield, where Baxter 'rigged me out in his clothes & took me to dine at the 83 mess where I sat next to a nice old man Coln. Bates, who has retired on full-pay. At dinner I saw Stephens & Vandeleur & two strange faces, all the others away, enjoyed my visit very much notwithstanding Newman paid. Most of the men enquired very kindly after me & were anxious to see me.' On 10 October 1862, while dining with 'the Farmers' Club at the Rutland Arms Bakewell' ('Mr. Thornhill & Lord Ed. Cavendish the two MPs for North Derbyshire coming to sit beside me') he gives 'the first speech of the evening' and is 'surprised at my own boldness & success'. Within two and a half years his reticence has dissipated, and he writes on 8 February 1865: 'Lectured on India at Calver. A very unpleasant day though fortunately it was a calm fine night so that the very large and flattering audience for my lecture came & went home dry above & below. The lecture commenced a little before 8 & the people did not leave the room till 10 Mr. Stockdale & Mr. Smith having the usual little squabble & chaff with one another at the end. I got on capitally found no difficulty in speaking what I wanted to say & having a great many models & curiosities I was able to illustrate my meaning fully. [...]' At the start of his Chatsworth career, on 8 July 1862, Wrench had written 'I feel today as if I had commenced on a road of anxiety, the end of which I cannot see', but as the journals proceed his anxiety over moving into private practice dissipates, and he his contentment over his life on the Chatsworth Estate is apparent. By 20 February 1866 he can report that he is 'saving more than the pay I should have been receiving in the army. I hope I am truly thankful for all these blessings'.