Francis Stenton

Upper Assembly Rooms, opened Sept 1812.   (John Merridew, 1822)

Upper Assembly Rooms, opened Sept 1812. (John Merridew, 1822)

Francis Stenton was the Master of Ceremonies at the Upper Assembly Rooms from 1821 to 1830, resigning in mysterious circumstances having been absent for a while. In an address to the subscribers at the election of his successor, Dr Amos Middleton said:

“I must ever lament the necessity that has placed Capt. Stenton in a situation which has compelled him to resign the office, after holding it for so many years with so much credit to himself and satisfaction to you. Such, however is the will of Providence; and the event affords another instance of the instability and uncertainty of all things this side of the grave. Let Capt. Stenton, however, retire to what part of the world he may – let him engage in what pursuits he will, he shall carry with him my good wishes – my heart’s best feelings for his happiness and success in future undertakings.”

 

The Leamington Spa Courier of 13 March 1830 then added “ [A general burst of applause from all parts of the room followed these observations and the knowledge of this fact will no doubt afford Capt S some consolation in his misfortunes.]”

Francis and his wife Isabella, the niece of Lord Castlemaine, first came to Leamington from Ireland in about 1816 when his regiment the 2nd Battalion 35th Footwas disbanded and he was placed on half pay like so many other officers who had fought in the Napoleonic Wars. It was in Leamington in 1817 that their son Richard Adolophus was baptised at All Saints Church on 11 May, followed by Louisa Sophia at Warwick St Mary in 1819, Vere Smith in Leamington in 1822, Isabella in 1823, Elizabeth Roberts in 1826 , Georgiana Julia in 1827 and Emma in 1828.

Francis probably came to Leamington initially because it was a fashionable watering place but he stayed on in the hope of obtaining a commission in the Warwickshire Militia to replace his Lieutenant’s half pay. His family was growing, he was having trouble getting hold of his wife’s share of her father’s estate and his share of his own father’s estate was never that large. The commission in the Militia never materialised but the Master of Ceremonies post in the Upper Assembly Rooms fell vacant in 1821 and Francis was successful in obtaining it in order to supplement his Army pay. It was Francis Stenton who wrote the Rules of Conduct for the Assembly Rooms as published in guides of the time.

Francis carried out his duties as Master of Ceremonies successfully for 8 years and from the newspaper piece quoted above he seems to have been well liked. However in the autumn of 1829 he was taken to court in London for a debt of £50 and imprisoned in the Kings Bench Prison. On his release in February 1830 he resigned and sailed for America, obtaining land and settling in Detroit, Michigan. He died and was buried there in 1854, his wife Isabella having died in poverty in London in 1851 – she is buried in an unmarked grave in Brompton Cemetery.

 

Jacqui Kirk

 

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