Sunday, July 17, 2011

A timeline and links for Harriet Maria Campbell, formerly Dickson, formerly Medows, nee Norie

A woman with three husbands, each prominent and notable, but for three quite different reasons. Here is an overview of Harriet Maria Norie's life in timeline form.The books at the end relate to a famous case of bigamy among the upper class.


  • Born, probably at home, 39 Burr Street, London, fifth of nine known children.
  • November 5: Baptised at St Botolph Aldgate.


  • May 25: Married Evelyn Philip MEDOWS, Esq.

  • December 18: Married Major General Sir Alexander DICKSON, G.C.B., K.C.H.

  •  June 6: Charles Street, Berkeley Square with sister Isabel NORIE and 4 servants.
  • July 12: Married Sir John CAMPBELL, K.C.T.S.

  • March 30:  51 Charles Street, Berkeley Square with husband Sir John CAMPBELL and 4 servants.

  • April 7: 51 Charles Street, Berkeley Square with husband Sir John CAMPBELL and 4 servants.
  • November 25: Died at Richmond, Surrey.
  • November 30: Buried at Kensal Green All Souls.
  • February 13: Letters of Administration to Sir John CAMPBELL, Henry Hay NORIE, nephew, and Rowland BENNETT.

In 1776, Harriet Maria's first husband caused his uncle's wife, the so-called Duchess of Kingston, to be tried for bigamy. I hear they sold tickets to the trial. This was a huge event, all before Harriet Maria was born, and 35 years before she and Evelyn Philip Medows were married.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sir John Campbell's brother-in-law wrote the leading work on navigation: J.W. Norie

Did Sir John Campbell own the house he lived in during the mid-1800s, on Charles Street, Berkeley Square, or did his second wife bring it into their marriage? She was married three times, to three different men: one famous for losing a court case, one an early 19th century military hero, and one a one-time leader of the losing side in the Portuguese civil war between two brothers.

Harriet Maria Norie, the second wife of both Sir Alexander Dickson and Sir John Campbell

In 1842, over 20 years after the death of his first wife, Sir John became the third husband of Harriet Maria Dickson, nee Norie.

Harriet Maria's father, James Norie, was not a wealthy man, at least, there are no hints suggesting he was, which is about as definite a statement as I can make. He came from Morayshire, Scotland, established a school in London after moving down from Scotland. Harriet Maria's mother, Dorothy Mary (nee Fletcher), was the daughter of a merchant, Jacob Fletcher, who was, it appears, a London man. Again, I haven't seen anything to suggest he was a particularly notable or rich merchant. My impression is that this was a happy and creative family of teachers, writers, and painters, who perhaps had more intangible wealth than money.

One brother, John William Norie, 1772 to 1843, became a leading writer on navigation, with Epitome of Practical Navigation (1805) being one of the most frequently-mentioned of his books. There is a portrait of J.W. Norie in the National Portrait Gallery. It's from the entry for J. W. Norie in the Dictionary of National Biography that we get the information about his and Harriet Maria's parents.

"NORIE, JOHN WILLIAM (1772–1843), writer on navigation, born in Burr Street, London, on 3 July 1772, was son of James Norie (1737–1793), a native of Morayshire, who, after being trained for the presbyterian church, migrated to London in 1756, and kept a flourishing school in Burr Street, Wapping. Norie's mother was Dorothy Mary Fletcher (1753–1840), daughter of a merchant in East Smithfield.

The son, John William, resided, according to the ‘London Directory’ for 1803, at the ‘Naval Academy, 157 Leadenhall Street.’ At the same address William Heather carried on business as a publisher of naval books and dealer in charts and nautical instruments at the ‘Navigation Warehouse.’ Heather's name disappears in 1815, and the business was henceforth conducted by Norie with a partner, Charles Wilson, under the style of Norie & Wilson.

The ‘Navigation Warehouse’ has been immortalised by Charles Dickens in ‘Dombey and Son’ as the shop kept by Sol Gills (cf. J. Ashby-Sterry's article ‘The Wooden Midshipman’ in All the Year Round, 29 Oct. 1881, p. 173). Norie retired about 1830, but the business was carried on in the same place until 1880, when the premises were taken down and the firm removed to 156 Minories, where the figure of the little midshipman which decorated Norie's house of business still exists.

Norie, who is variously described as ‘teacher of navigation and nautical astronomy,’ and ‘hydrographer,’ died at No. 3 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, on 24 Dec. 1843, and was buried in St. John's episcopal church."

The entry is from an old edition of the Dictionary. Since then, the properties where Norie's business was have both been redeveloped. Norie's firm survives as Imray. A detailed, illustrated short history of the firm is found on Cruising World's website.

The little wooden midshipman is on permanent loan from Imray to The Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street, London.

So, we know there was at least one famous Norie, but I still don't think they were wealthy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

From the Royal kalendar, 1820, an interesting charity name

City of London Truss-Society,
for the Relief of the Ruptured Poor

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How could Sir John Campbell, K.C.T.S., afford to live on Charles Street, Berkeley Square?

As I've been looking at records of the life and career of Sir John Campbell (1780 to 1863), many times I've wondered about money. I first found him because I've been looking at  Charles Street, Berkeley Square in London, a prestigious address with many poobahs as neighbours, and that's where he lived in the last decades of his life. My lingering question was, how could he afford it?

Sir John's father, William Campbell, was a Commissioner of the Navy, a high-ranking civil servant, but not necessarily a wealthy man once the benefits of his office (notably, a house) were removed.

Sir John's two sisters married two brothers of the Onslow family, who themselves have an illustrious pedigree. However, any Onslow family wealth and land would have bypassed Elizabeth and Marianna Onslow nee Campbell and passed to the male heirs.

Sir John did enjoy some hospitality from his sister Elizabeth and her husband, Reverend George Onslow. In the 1841 census, we find Sir John and "Elise", whom I assume to be Sir John's daughter Elizabeth, with the Onslows at their family home, Dunsborough House in Send, Surrey. I've taken this to be either  the normal reciprocal visiting among family members or a temporary residence for Sir John and Elizabeth. At some point during or after 1834, Sir John returned from his stay as a prisoner of war in Portugal. During his absence, his only child Elizabeth may have been sent to stay with the Onslows, and perhaps Sir John joined her there.

Website for The Wey Valley, with a picture of Dunsborough House and interesting history about the villages of Send and Ripley

So, I've ruled out inherited wealth, but I should look for the will of Sir John's father and also of Sir John's siblings, just in case there is a pot of gold somewhere. It's unlikely any siblings transferred any wealth to him. I think each had a family of his or her own to care for.

Sir John's first wife, the young Portuguese lady Dona Maria Brigida de Faria e Lacerda has a noble-sounding name and it wouldn't surprise me if her family had a prominent position in Portugual. However, she married out of her society and went to England, where she died young. Sir John was persona non grata in Portugal after supporting the losing side in the War of the Two Brothers (and being a noted prisoner of war following it). Also, I have always had the impression that being an army officer in his day was not usually a way to get rich. I suppose perhaps there were occasional opportunities for plunder, but he hardly seems to have been in the right place and time for that, at least not at the latter stage of his Army career.

Having written off these various sources, I took a closer look at who owned 51 Charles Street and how Sir John came to live there at all.