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Mrs. Dorothy Jordan; did she ever live in Ewell?

1997/4 pp8–9


Mrs. Dorothy Jordan; did she ever live in Ewell?


As the owner of the Red House in Church Street, Ewell, I have always been keen to establish the basis for Cloudesley Willis’ assertion that Mrs. Dorothy Jordan, the actress and mistress of the Duke of Clarence, once occupied a house on this site. The publication in 1994 of Claire Tomalin’s comprehensive biography of the actress, Mrs. Jordan’s Profession, provided an opportunity to address this problem again.


One possible piece of corroborative evidence was established by Hazel Wynn-Jones, who recorded in 1982 that the baptisms of two of Mrs. Jordan’s children had been entered in the Ewell Parish Register. I have obtained copies of these entries as follows:

‘August 11th (1792), Lucy Hester, daughter of Mrs. Jordan’


‘May 10th (1794) George Fitzclarence son of His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence and Mrs. Dora Jordan was baptised at Petersham by the Revd. Thos. Lloyd curate of Ewell and Chaplain to His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence’.


Lucy Hester (not May Hester, as stated by Wynn-Jones) must have been Lucy Hester Ford, Mrs. Jordan’s younger daughter by Richard Ford, born in 1789 when Mrs. Jordan was living with Ford. By August 1792 Mrs. Jordan had moved in with the Duke of Clarence at Clarence Lodge, Petersham. It would therefore appear unlikely that either Lucy Hester or George Fitzclarence was born in Ewell.


Reading Claire Tomalin’s detailed account of Mrs. Jordan’s various moves, it seemed that there was very little time unaccounted for when she might have set up house in Ewell.


I therefore wrote to Claire Tomalin to see if she could shed any light on the problem. She replied:


‘About the house, I simply cannot say. These years between the break with Ford (November 1791) and the move to Bushy (July 1797) are hard to track down. The Duke and Dora certainly spent a good deal of time at Petersham. He was sometimes at St. James’s Palace too, and so was she. She also had a house in Somerset Street, off Portman Square. She found all the moving about tiring, which makes one wonder whether she would have wanted another house in Ewell. One possibility is that she might have sent her three daughters to Ewell for a summer holiday, taking a lease on a house for them, with their Aunt Hester who was in charge of them. The friendship with the Lloyds might have followed on from this; she remained on very warm terms with the Lloyd family until the end of her life’.


Claire Tomalin had also found a reference to Lloyd in the anonymous Life of Mrs. Jordan which quoted an article written in York in 1798, also anonymous, mentioning ‘the Rev. M. Lloyd, at Ewell, chaplain to His Grace, who receives from Mrs. Jordan the yearly sum of £400 for their [the children’s] maintenance and instruction’.


One final piece of evidence has been supplied by Mabel Dexter who established from the enclosure award of 1801, and from Land Tax records, that the Rev. Thomas Lloyd occupied a house on this site from 1790 to 1800, with his wife and three children. He also lived in other houses in Ewell between 1786 and 1805.


It is still not possible to say with any certainty whether Mrs. Jordan actually lived in Ewell for any length of time. However, it seems extremely unlikely that she did. What one can say, however, is that, since Lloyd was tutor to her children and, according to one source, received an annual payment for their maintenance as well as for their instruction, it seems likely that at least some of her children stayed with the Lloyds. If this was so, Mrs. Jordan probably visited them in Ewell from time to time and may even have stayed with the Lloyds, who were close friends of hers.


Philip Jones

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