Oxborough – Oxburgh Hall (Diary of Thomas Marwood)

This is the diary of Thomas Marwood (?-1718), a private tutor to Henry Arundell Bedingfield (1689-1760). The diary was written between 1699 and 1703, with the pair often travelling in Europe under the guise of meeting family members. A ruse was needed because Marwood, who went by the alias of Henry Nelson, was a Catholic at a time when providing a child with such a religious education was not permissible.

The National Trust have noted that the diary is opened out onto September 1700, with the entry of 1 September:

“I measured the Esquire’s height without his shoes and find him just 4 feet 4/6 English measure, ie, 4 feet 8 inches. And that he has grown a full inch since June 12 last. One inch”.

Marwood gained a reputation for his theological work and his ability to understand and interpret the Bible, rejecting what he felt were the errors of the Reformation and its impact on the text. It was once thought that the above painting was of Marwood and his charge, the young Henry, although apparently this might not be the case.

Marwood’s diary was used extensively in the early twentieth century in research papers, so it has been carefully examined and most of it has been published. And Marwood seemed to have had a marvellous time travelling throughout Europe, seeing travel, theatre and culture as part of the whole learning experience.

The diary entry for 19 November 1700 is for when Marwood went to visit Dunkirk, where he stayed for six weeks. He was particularly taken with the kitchen, which he noted was “the neatest contrived I ever saw; it would roast three spits with a little charcoal and bake small things by two ovens with the same fire”. To be fair, it’s the sort of things that I would have written excitedly about if I had been there then.

But what a learning experience this was for the young Bedingfield, visiting important political figures around Europe. There were also a couple of meetings with Jacobites, perhaps this is what influenced Henry later on in his life to produce his secret drinking glasses.