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the Seventh Earl of Barrymore 1769-1793It was perhaps not entirely fair to call Richard, 7th Earl of Barrymore 'Hellgate', although it is probable he rather enjoyed the nickname. In the words of modern times, he lived fast and died young - and relished most of it. He certainly took no regrets with him to the grave at the early age of 24 - except perhaps the one about carrying loaded rifles. You see he died as he lived - uniquely. He was shot through the eye when the loaded rifle he was carrying next to him in his carriage discharged accidentally.
Getting briefly biographical he was one of four children, the eldest son of the Earl of Barrymore and his wife, Emily nee Stanhope who was the daughter of the Earl of Harrington. His father died in 1773 and his mother a few years later when he was 11. He and his two brothers and sister were left very much to themselves. For a brief time after his mother died his grandmother, the Countess of Harrington, took some interest in them, but she died when Barrymore was only 14, soon after he was sent to Eton.
Either through genetics or through neglect the four Barry children all grew to adulthood with eccentric characterstics and all acquired appropriate nicknames. The eldest child, Caroline, was known as 'Billingsgate' due to her foul language. Richard was known as 'Hellgate', his younger brother, Henry, had a club foot and so was called 'Cripplegate' while the youngest brother, Augustus, who surprisingly became a man of the cloth, was known as 'Newgate', that being reckoned as the only prison he hadn't been inside.
Barrymore was a multi-faceted character. He was clearly very bright and very motivated. At the age of 18 he set up his own stables and was known to be a very skilled jockey. Indeed his skills were compared with a contemporary of his, The Duke of Queensbury, who was by now in his prime.
His personaility was characterised by driving energy and creativity barely limited by finanacial restrictions. In his few short years it is said that he lost over 300 thousand pounds on the turf and stables. At the same time he was interested in theatre, actively interested. Although he was not due to reach his majority and thereby gain access to his fortune until he was 20, he began building his own theatre in a small village outside of London called Wargrave. He put on a range of dramas, farces,and plays, not only producing them, but acting in them with this friends and a mix of professionals from London. An account from a visitor there in 1788 described the the cake, wine and negus that was brought out between acts and startling revelation that the cake itself must have cost twenty pounds.
It was these interests that meant that he kept good company with the local money lenders, most particuarly a gentleman who rejoiced in the name of 'Black Dick'.
This was the age of clubs and laddish behaviour and the Earl of Barrymore not only personified it - he took it to
the extremes. He was constantly deivsing new tricks and ideas and eccentrities for the amusement of himself and his
friends which included the Prince of Wales. Clubs were a popular amusement for gentlemen of the time - many of them
ephemeral - Barrymore belonged to - or often founded - a number of them. There was 'The Bothering Club'
which met at Barrymore's home in Wargrave. Another "The Warble
Club" met at the World's End Tavern at Leatherhead and had a number of marvellous rules these included:
There was also the Two O'Clock Club which was named for the hour of the morning they met. The Prince of Wales was a member of his 'Je ne sais Quoi' Club which was also known as the 'Star and Garter' which was the tavern they met in.
It was around this time that the interest in boxing amongst young gentlemen was becoming fashionable and Barrymore adopted it with open arms. Not only did he box himself but he organised fights and bet on them. He won 25 thousand pounds on one boxing match alone between 'The Tinman' Hooper and Watson.
He bet on anything and everything, often himself. One famous bet was between himself in a running race against a man - Captain Parkhurst - who was mounted on a horse. The event took place on April 16th, 1790 - the course set out as 30 yards straight, round a tree and then return. It was to be the best of four heats and even the Prince of Wales came down to watch. However the result was an inconclusive 2 all.
Another famous race was against a rather large Gentleman, Mr Bullock, in Brighton. Mr Bullock hearing of Barrymore's running prowess offered to race him over 100 yards saying he could beat him if he was given 35 yards head start. Barrymore readily accepted the bet based on Mr Bullocks rather generous bulk. However, unusually, Barrymore hadn't done his homework and it was left to Mr Bullock to set the course, which he did - through one of Brighton's narrowest alleys. Bullock had his 35 yards head start and Barrymore quickly came up on him, but could not get past him - Bullock won.
As I said before there were many sides to Barrymore. He was a close friend of the Prince of Wales and spent time leading the Prince astray down in Brighton and in good natured bantering. But there was a darker side he appeared to enjoy baiting strangers for the possibility of joke and did not seem to mind when these exchanges degenerated. In fact he spent a lot of time in the seamier haunts of london amongst thieves and other low-lifes. His quarrels were frequently assisted by the scientific intervention of his constant companion - Hooper, the boxer mentioned earlier on.
By 1792 Barrymore was in trouble, severe financial trouble. He must have had some inkling of this the year before. He had uncahracteristically tried to run for parliament, although it was a very half-hearted effort. The fact was that Members of Parliament could not be arrested for debt. He started to cut back on costs including the stables which had only been established four years before.
He decided that year, for some reason to get married. It might have been understandable if he had chosen a wealthy heiress, but inexplicably he chose the infamous Letty Lade's neice, Miss Goulding. She was neither rich nor well-born - and even worse, her father was rumoured to have been a sedan-chair man!
Sir John and Lady Lade were Miss Goulding's guardians and they gave their permission for the marriage. Barrymore, unable to conform to convention decided to elope to Gretna Green instead. It seems they set off, but it does not seem that they actually arrived in Gretna at all. While it is certain that they did legally marry at some stage it is not certain when. Needless to say the whole caused a marvellous hum of scandal which no doubt Barrymore enjoyed.
Whether he enjoyed married life or not is unknown, she seemed a good sort of girl, but within a year he was dead, shot through the eye in the accident. He was succeeded by his brother, Henry or Cripplegate as he was also known.Return to Regency Collection