Francis Cholmeley and his family in Italy, 1841-1847

Francis Cholmeley (1783-1854), of Brandsby Hall, North Yorkshire, was married to Barbara Darell and had six children. He is one of several 19th-century travellers to Italy within our archive collections. From 1841 to 1847, he travelled to Italy each year, staying in Rome and Naples for several months at a time. His diaries regularly record attending mass at St Peter’s in the Vatican and at other churches in Rome and Naples, as well as visits to ancient monuments in Rome, Pompeii, Paestum and a variety of social engagements.

These diaries, together with official paperwork and contracts, notebooks, records of expenditure, bills and receipts, provide a fascinating insight into the everyday life and expenses of a Victorian gentleman’s lengthy visits to Italy in the mid-19th-century.

Papers relating to travel and accommodation in Italy (written in Italian and French), 1843-1844 [ZQG XII 12/6/25-27 & 30]:

  • Louis Fontana’s contract for transport from Rome to Milan (Italian), 22 May 1844 [ZQG X11 12/6/27]
  • Contract with Angelo Lensi for lodgings in Palazzo Cini, Piazza di Pietra, Rome (Italian), 5 May 1843 [ZQG XII 12/6/26]
  • D.P. Parete’s contract for transport from Naples to Rome (French), 25 Oct 1843 [ZQG X11 12/6/25]
  • Official pass into the city of Rome (Italian), 30 Nov 1844 [ZQG X11 12/6/30]

Francis Cholmeley’s passport, 1840 with stamps at Paris, Venice and Rome [ZQG X11 12/6/21]

Written in French and Italian, on thin, delicate paper, this passport is very different to modern passports. Prior to unification in 1861, Italy was divided into several smaller states. Passing from one to another would have involved border control and, in some cases such as the City of Rome, permits for entry (see above).

A selection of purchase receipts, 1840s [ZQG X11 12/6]

The Cholmeley of Brandsby archive contains a large number of receipts from Francis Cholmeley and his family’s time in Italy. This selection relates to purchases of ice cream, drawing materials, wine, dresses and hats &c.

Silver-inlaid black notebook (unused) with pencil, containing visiting cards in side pocket, and another card case with pencil and cards, 1840s [ZQG X11 12/6/34-38]

The visiting cards are for Mr Cholmeley at two addresses in Rome: 54 Via delle Mercede and Palazzo Cini, Piazza di Pietra. The contract for the latter lodgings in 1843 can be seen above.

A selection of Francis Cholmeley’s pocket diaries, 1841-1847 [ZQG X11 12/5/2-7]

These small, pre-printed pocket diaries include editions of Peacock’s Polite Repository and Pocket Companion, as well as other ‘Agenda’ printed in France. The limited amount of available space for each day’s account of events is in sharp contrast to the large ledger books used as journals by our 18th-century travellers

In one example, on Monday 14 February 1842, Francis records “Went with Mr Blundell to the Borghese Gallery & then walked with him to the Coliseum. Lloyd called here before dinner. Fine, nights and mornings very cold” [ZQG X11 12/5/3]. This combination of noting events and activities, along with people he met and observations on the weather is typical of the information recorded in the diaries.

On Friday 2 June 1843, he visited the ancient Greek temples of Paestum and notes “Left Salerno at 20 min before 7. Got to Paestum in abt 4 hours. Staid there till 2. Cold dinner in the temple of Neptune & then walk’d round with Cicerone. Ret[urne]d to Salerno abt 4. Had an early supper there & then came on to La Cava in an hour. – Hugh came of age today. Fine” [ZQG X11 12/5/4].

Where Francis had more to record than would fit on the pages of his pocket diary, he also wrote in pencil in small notebooks. Perhaps these longer notes were written at a later date, using the briefer notes in the pocket diary as an aide memoire? Compare, for example, this description of his visit to Paestum from his notebook, with that in his pocket diary (see above):

“June 2nd [1843] Hugh came of age. Left Salerno at 20 min before 7. Bay of Salerno very beautiful. Road flat all the way & good country at first well cultivated, then wild & corn only now & then & no vines. Latter half a fine straight & excellent road after going 19 miles crossed the river Sele, narrow but deep by a flying bridge. Soon came in sight of the Temples of Paestum and there in about 4 hours. El & Hugh made a drawing & I sauntered about the temple of Neptune & Basilica, the former the finest. All were built of travertine. Temple of Neptune a rich yellow colour, Basilica greyer. Pillars very majestic Doric, intercolumniation 1½ diameter, pillars slightly curved all the way up. (Vida last page but one).

We lunched there & then a Ciceroni took us round. The basilica less handsome, columns lower & tapered & curve too much. Went thence to the only remaining gate of the tower, a plain arch. Walls in ruins, but rising some height & go all round at 2½ miles. Thence to the temple of Ceres. Very pretty, less massive than Neptune & smaller. Sides 13 columns, ends 6, 20 flutings. We got back to Salerno in 4 hours by 6. Dined there & got to La Cava in an hour, up hill all the way, but very beautiful scenery. Fine, but never offensively hot.” [ZQG X11 12/6/ 5]

Example of Francis Cholmeley’s handwritten pocket books containing pencil notes of his travels through Italy, 1841-1844 [ZQG X11 12/6/2 & 5]

Pages from account books of general expenditure and housekeeping in Italy, 1845-1847 [ZQG X11 12/6/7; 13-14; 18-19]

Daily expenditure included payments for the hire of coachmen and carriages, the cook’s bill, the washing bill, as well as bills for bread and milk.

Notebooks containing daily accounts for groceries (written in Italian), 1845-1847 – open at pages for 17-18 October 1846 [ZQG X11 12/6/15-17]

The archive contains several small notebooks recording daily purchases of various food items and their costs, including chestnuts, sugar, lettuce, macaroni, anchovies, eggs, grapes, lard, parmesan and broccoli, assorted sweets, flour, crackers and lemons.