View Full Version : "Unfortunate affair at Kensington" 1720

Lesley Robertson
18-01-2019, 11:34 AM
Does anyone know whether the "Unfortunate affair at Kensington" that occurred in 1720 is likely to be a reference to the South Sea Bubble?
The term was used by Richard Bradley FRS to describe how he lost all his money and the Bubble is the only thing I can find that might apply, but how does Kensington come into it? He also referred at least to "the Kensington misfortune", so the place must be significant.
It can't have been anything seriously disreputable as he was appointed to be the first Botany Professor at the University of Cambridge in 1724. Also, his successor at the Uni spent a lot of time trying to destroy Bradley's reputation and would not have failed to mention a juicy scandal id he could.

18-01-2019, 12:31 PM
British History online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-environs/vol3/pp170-230

The first 3 paras refer to Kensington's significance as a centre of horticulture around the early 18th century. He wrote several books re. botany, husbandry, farm/estate management etc.

Perhaps it was a failed venture linked to his particular expertise?

Lesley Robertson
18-01-2019, 2:04 PM
Thanks, that's a good thought.He didn't just lose money, but also his collection of rare plants, which would fit.

He's a good example of the damage that trolls can do - the guy that followed him at Cambridge (and his son, the 3rd Prof in the chain) took every opportunity to blacken his name after his death, and it succeeded. His work was ignored until the mid 20th century when people actually read his publications and realised that he was very good at what he did. The illustrations in his books are beautiful, for a start.
He's a bit of a side interest for me - he was one of the few who spotted the significance for infection of the "little animals" that Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (my current interest) found in water and other places.

I'll check that reference now (and bookmark the site - I'm much better on the Scottish sources).

18-01-2019, 2:25 PM
I checked Richard Bradley's "Ten prectical discourses concerning earth and water, fire and air, as they relate to the growth of plants. With a collection of new discoveries for the improvement of land either in the farm or garden" published 1727.

I had identified a reference to "Kensington" and his work there in the version I was checking gratis National Library of Wales. But the google books version I then found does not respond to the search key "Kensington". But if you use the search key "experiment ten" (retaining the " " as part of key) it should return page 144.

Thanks for the post. I am a very keen (vegetable only) gardener and any post involving horticulture is a bonus.

18-01-2019, 2:50 PM
The 1727 work refers to his work at Cambden House.

He dedicated his "History of Succulent Plants .....", 1716-1727 "To my Honoured Friend, Robert Balle, Esq; of Cambden House in the County of Middlesex"

Lesley Robertson
18-01-2019, 2:53 PM
Can you tell that I'm supposed to be sorting stuff to take to the recycle shop?

If you are interested in his work, the Internet Archive has quite a few of his books. He got interested in the causes of infection what he noticed that each sort of plant seemed to have its own pest, and scaled the answer down (smaller fleas have smaller fleas sort of thing).

Crossed posts. He and Balle seem to have been good friends, it was Balle who proposed him for Royal Society membership.

Lesley Robertson
18-01-2019, 3:05 PM
I found a copy of the book you mentioned on the Internet Archive. It's a very useful connection - I hadn't connected Cambden House with Kensington - the ref I had for Balle called it Camden House in Middlesex and I didn't chase it.

Thinks... When did Balle go bankrupt? It's beginning to make sense, especially if Bradley lost all his exotic plants when the Estate was sold.

Many thanks - I've stopped banging my head against the brick wall!

Note added - Balle didn't go bankrupt, he moved to Italy

18-01-2019, 3:22 PM
His "A treatise of Succulent Plants", published 1710, (6 pages only), page 2 -

"PROPOSALS for PRINTING this WORK by SUBSCRIPTION are as follows Viz
That the Price of the Book to Subscribers will be ten Shillings, five Shillings to be paid at the Time of Subscription, the rest at the delivery of the Book.
To those who subscribe for six, a seventh Gratis
That all such as desire this Book in Colours may have it printed after the Originals at 2 10s per Book, paying 10s at the Time of Subscription, the rest at Delivery.
* Note - There will be no more Books Printed than what are Subscrib'd for"

Did this scheme backfire or a later, similar scheme?

18-01-2019, 3:27 PM
Another crossed post!
I have access to his publications via the National Library of Wales.
I was just about to check out Robert Balle.

Lesley Robertson
18-01-2019, 3:48 PM
I've just found an extensive biography of him HERE (https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsnr.2001.0151?origin=publication_detail)

This story keeps getting bigger!

18-01-2019, 3:57 PM
I'd spotted that Robert Balle had fled the country (back to Leghorn) sometime after July 1720. So was the "Kensington misfortune" the loss of his patron?

In 1720 one of Richard's books had gone into its 3rd edition, so some money was rolling in.

Again, thanks for this post.

Lesley Robertson
18-01-2019, 5:38 PM
Bradley had built up a considerable collection of exotic plants from collections in Europe as well as the UK, he reckoned it was worth over 2000 quid. Lacking any land himself, he kept them all on Balle’s land. If he fell out with the new owners, he probably wouldn’t have been able to claim the collection, especially since this was before he had the Professorial status.

All sorts of bits of the story have started coming together, it’s been a very interesting afternoon and I must thank you for finding the missing bits of the jigsaw. It’s cheered me up no end!

18-01-2019, 6:55 PM
A depressingly wet afternoon has kept me indoors and away from the allotment/garden. Checking out Richard was the perfect antidote.