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Norwich’s John Patteson’s 18th Century Grand Tour of Europe

It was 245 years ago when a young gentleman and his dog by the name of called Doctor left Norwich for a grand tour across Europe…his name was John Patteson and he went on to become a great Norfolk character and an MP.

John led quite a life and we can read all about his adventures in his own words, thanks to the letters he sent, and received, during his travels across a very different Europe to the one we know today.

Somehow these fascinating letters have survived over the decades and they (more than 80 of them), and the story of his life, were published in a book by Norfolk Record Society which is now available for EDP/EN readers at a reduced price.

At the age of twelve John, born in 1755, he had been sent to Leipzig where he stayed for three years in preparation for taking his place in an international textile business which Norwich was famous for.

He spoke German and French and when he was 22, he engaged a servant in Rotterdam and went off on his travels through the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Sicily and Italy with a detour to Malta before returning through France and Belgium eighteen months later.

Grand Tours are often associated with the sons of the aristocracy but this venture could also be enjoyed by wealthy commercial families such as the Pattesons of Norwich, highly successful master weavers, on the cusp of wealth and leisure.

John’s journey was a business trip as well as an educational experience. He travelled with and met some fascinating folk.

He wrote to his mother Martha at their Surrey Street mansion in Norwich, younger brother Harry, his friend William Herring and his cousin Elizabeth Fromanteel. His letters paint a vivid picture of a Europe where Germany and Italy were still patchworks of principalities, dukedoms and other jurisdictions

And Martha wrote back telling him what was going on among the wealthy and wise in Norwich and Norfolk – assize week, entertainment socialising, cards and politics.

John stayed in some rough old places including one where he wrote how his dog Doctor, with great contempt, turned up his leg against the wall.

Mind you, he gives a wonderful account of being carried on a chair across the Alps at Mount Cenis to arrive in Italy.

On his return he married Elizabeth Staniforth in 1781, described as an “heiress” on their monument in St Peter Mancroft Church, and launched himself into public life serving as sheriff, mayor, MP (for Minehead and then Norwich) and as an officer with the Norwich Volunteers.

He lived life to the full, was involved in many businesses and was reported to have been the first in the city to drive his own private chariot.

By 1819, thanks to his high spendinge, he was running out of money and had to sell his estates at Colney and Bawburgh, his paintings  and the family home, Surrey Street House in the city which was bought by Samuel Bignold and became the HQ of Norwich Union, known as Bignold House.

He had also been President of the Norwich Union Life Assurance Company but then accepted £50 a year from the Corporation as a “grant to a decayed alderman.”

His son John Staniforth took over the brewing side of his business and the name lived on at the Steward & Patteson brewery..

John spent the last years of his life in a small house in Bishopgate, next to St Helen’s vicarage where his youngest son resided as chaplain to the Great Hospital. He died in 1833.

The Great Tour of John Patteson 1778-1779 edited by Alan Mackley, D Cubitt and R G Wilson was published by the Norfolk Record Society in 2003 and can be bought from their website at Norfolkrecordsociety.org.uk for £15 by non-members and readers of the EDP/EN get a 20% reduction by using the coupon code EDP202023 (valid until December 31).

Source: Evening News24