The Twickenham Museum
People : Royals, Peers and Courtiers

Isabella Lady Wentworth
Lively and curiously spelt letters
1653 - 1733

Family in Royal service

Isabella Wentworth was the daughter of Sir Allen Apsley who was Treasurer of the Household to James Duke of York (later James II. She became a Lady of the Bedchamber to James’s Queen. She had married Sir William Wentworth, a nephew of the 1st Earl of Strafford who had been executed in 1641.

Sir William died in 1692 leaving Isabella with 4 sons (two died in battle) and 4 daughters. In 1695 her son Thomas, a soldier later turned diplomat, became Lord Raby (a subsidiary title of the 2nd and last Earl of Strafford). This title passed to Thomas by special remainder. In 1711 he was made Earl of Strafford (of the second creation) and negotiated the treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Moves to Twickenham

In 1699 Lord Raby acquired a house on Twickenham Common later known as Gifford Lodge, moving in 1701 to a house near Twickenham Ferry later known as Mount Lebanon, which he greatly enlarged. Much of the time Strafford was abroad serving as a diplomat on the continent and so the house was left under a Steward and Housekeeper (Mr and Mrs Page). But members of his family frequently used the house. His mother Lady Wentworth loved “Sweet Twitnum” which she described as "a tatling place" and spent most summers there from 1705.

Letters full of Twickenham gossip

Her letters were full of Twickenham gossip, even if her spelling was eccentric - ”Twitnum” could also appear as ”Twittingham”. She recorded for instance the Maypole affray between Twickenham and Teddington, and the collapse of the nave of St Mary's Church in 1713. References to her pets or "dums", her family affairs including plans to find her son a wife, and local personalities abound in her letters.

This extract from a letter written probably in 1714 to her son and giving thanks for the good health of her granddaughter Anne illustrates a problem with burglary in Twickenham at this time:

My dearest and best of children I thank God Lady Anne is very well. The weather is very cold hard frosts every morning soe I fear we must not stay long hear for fear of agues (sic), but as you direct soe I will doe in my last I told you my kitchen was robbed and I have lost a great iron dryyun (drying?) pan worth a great deal a great gredyron iron candle sticks & many such things spits ffrying pan besides out of ye room within it a bolster & 4 blanckitts. al my windoe broke a great deal of damage done.

Mount Lebanon (built by Lord Raby)

Mount Lebanon

Isabella died in August 1733 and lies buried in Twickenham. The house variously known as Lebanon House or Mount Lebanon was replaced in 1794/6 by a new house of the same name by Lady Anne Conolly (sister of the 4th and last Earl of Strafford). This house in its turn burnt down in the first decade of the 20th century.


Further reading:

D.H.Simpson, Twickenham Society in Queen Anne's Reign, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper No.35
R S Cobbett, Memorials of Twickenham, 1872
J J Cartwright, The Wentworth Papers, 1883

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