The People of Gibraltar
1793 - Mrs Martha Chetwynd - Her  Chair

One curious and rather obscure episode of the post Great Siege era was the construction of a folly known locally as Mrs Chetwynd’s Chair. It must have been quite a well known tourist attraction as it is mentioned by quite a few 19th century travellers.

The ‘chair’ is simply a seat hewn out of the Rock and its main point of interest seems to have been its location high up on the west side of the Rock and close to the Governor’s Cottage. It offered - I am sure it still does - huge panoramas over the straits and breathtaking views towards Ceuta.

The chair was the work of a Major Douglas who was the Fort and Town Major in Gibraltar during the late eighteenth century. According to an article in a contemporary edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine, Major Douglas 'had an elegant taste for poetry, which the verses he has written upon several occurrences at Gibraltar are sufficient evidence.

Among the best of them are some complementary lines on the Hon. Mrs Chetwynd, and also on Prince Edward’s Chair, "which is placed upon the Levant Road, lately excavated out of the Rock of Gibraltar under his direction."

Mrs Chetwynd’s Chair  ( Unknown )

The identity of Mrs Chetwynd is uncertain. The most popular theory - proposed at great length by local historian George Palao - is that she was a certain Amy Lyon, who later changed her name to Emma Hart and who eventually became the mistress of Sir William Hamilton, the British Ambassador to Naples.

Sir William then married her whereupon she subsequently achieved immortality by becoming Lady Emma Hamilton, Nelson’s favourite mistress. Some have suggested that a head wound the admiral received at Abukir Bay was responsible for his less than admirable conduct in this respect. Others have given a more likely explanation; he was just a typically randy old sailor.

Lady Emma Hamilton (1804 George Romney )

However . . . In 1884 the Rev R. Stewart Patterson - Chaplain to H.M. Forces in Gibraltar during the late nineteenth century - wrote an article on the names of the streets of Gibraltar in a publication called Notes and Queries a Medium for Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc. - a Victorian equivalent to a modern '100 amazing things you never knew' - and probably could very well do without knowing.

Among other matters the Rev Patterson also asked the readers of Notes and Queries whether anybody knew the identity of Mrs Chedwynd.

They did - she was the wife of the Hon. Major-General Granville Anson Chetwynd-Stapylton.

Which of course raises the question - who was the good general? The answer according to his obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1835 is that in 1794 he was a Major of the 38th Foot and later served on board the Channel Fleet with Admiral Howe.

 In 1783 he married Martha Stapylton and later added her surname to his. If Eboracum is correct then Mrs Martha Chetwynd - who was born in 1769 - was a young lady in her early twenties when the chair was built. Could Martha have been the elusive Mrs Chadwynd?

Incidentally the location of the second chair mentioned in the Gentleman's Magazine as Prince Edward's Chair, is unknown.