Evidence for 18th-century travellers to Italy as part of a Grand Tour of Europe can be found amongst the papers of a number of families in the County Record Office collections. Comprising travel journals, sketchbooks and correspondence, this material provides a vivid picture of their lengthy time abroad. Through their detailed descriptions, we can share their wonder and delight at visiting the ancient sites and monuments and almost imagine ourselves there with them.
From the difficulties experienced with unhelpful customs officers to roads in a state of bad repair, from scorching summer heat to bitterly cold winters, we can see that the travelling life was not always the luxury that we might presume. However, having reached their destinations, they were often part of larger communities of British travellers who knew each other from social circles back home; they dined together in the evening and attended social engagements at each others’ apartments, or attended functions given by local diplomats and aristocracy, enjoying fine food and wine. Thomas Orde, Lawrence Dundas and William Danby were in Italy at the same time as each other, and are likely to have crossed paths.
Thomas Dundas, 1759-1763
Details of Thomas Dundas and his visit to Italy from 1759-1763 can be found on this separate web page. His son Lawrence also made a Grand Tour between 1787-1789. A document from Lawrence’s papers whilst in Italy about visiting Paestum can be seen on the Advice for Travellers webpage [ZNK X 3/1].
Thomas Orde, 1772-1773 and 1788-1789
Details of Thomas Orde’s visits to Italy between 1772-1773 and again in 1788-1789 can be found on this separate web page.
John Christopher Burton Dawnay, 5th Viscount Downe, 1784-1786
Amongst the papers of John Christopher Burton Dawnay (1764-1832) in the Dawnay family archive is a bundle of bills and receipted accounts from Italy, France and Vienna. Within these is a document providing advice and hints on travel to Italy, which can be seen on the Advice for Travellers webpage [ZDS XVI 8].
There is also a list of books (written in Italian & French) and a bill for prints purchased on the Grand Tour, 20 Mar 1785 (written in Italian), which includes Piranesi’s Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome) in two volumes.
The Dawnay family seat was Cowick Hall in Yorkshire. On his father’s death, John succeeded to the Viscountcy in 1780. Between 1787-1790, he was MP for Petersfield and, between 1790-1796, MP for Wootton Basset. In 1796, he was created Baron Dawnay of Cowick.
List of books (written in Italian & French) and a bill for prints purchased on the Grand Tour, 20 Mar 1785 (written in Italian), which includes Piranesi’s Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome) in two volumes [ZDS XVI 8]
William Danby, 1788-1789
Leaving England for Europe in November 1786 at the age of 34, William Danby (1752-1833) of Swinton Park, near Masham, travelled for three years through France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. He was in Rome and Naples from November 1788 to April 1789, travelling south to Naples in January 1789.
Engraving of William Danby by John Jackson, undated [ZS*]
Of this road journey, he describes the landscape through which he travels, commenting on the views of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples, noting that the January weather was “very fine and almost as warm as summer.” For his journal, he has used a large, pre-printed ledger book, similar to that used by Thomas Orde in 1772, although only writing on the right hand page. On the spine of this book, is written ‘TRAV MEM’.
Pages from William Danby’s travel journal, 1786-1789 [ZS*]