Gainsborough, Thomas, 1727-1788; Captain William Wade

Captain William Wade by Thomas Gainsborough. Image retrieved through

William Wade, born about 1733, was the great nephew of Field-Marshal George Wade (1673 – 1748), best remembered as the builder of military roads in Scotland and as a long-time member of Parliament for Bath. William Wade, sometimes incorrectly stated to be one of the illegitimate sons of the Field Marshall, is named in George Wade’s 1747 will as the son of George Wade’s nephew Major Wade.

I am distantly related to William Wade: he was the father-in-law of my fifth great uncle Philip Champion Crespigny.

William Wade was educated at the Westminster School and then had a career in the army.

In December 1760 he married Catherine Gore, daughter of Henry Gore of Leatherhead, Surrey. William and Catherine had at least four children, three daughters and a son.

In April 1769, William Wade, at that time holding the rank of Captain, was elected Master of Ceremonies at Bath. Beau Nash (1674 – 1761) was his most notable predecessor in the position. Nash’s place there was unofficial but he met visitors to Bath, encouraged them to subscribe to the Assembly Rooms and kept the peace by enforcing the rules there. Nash made money by sharing in the receipts from the subscriptions and the benefit balls. By the time Wade was appointed, the position was by the election of subscribers of the Assembly Rooms and a salary was paid to the holder of the position from the proceeds of the benefit balls.

1769 cartoon King of Bath election

Female intrepidity, or the battle of the belles on ye election of a King of Bath. May 1769. Etching. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0. Image retrieved from

The season at Bath ran from October to May. Patronised by the Prince of Wales, Brighton also became a fashionable summer resort, known for sea bathing. Since the social seasons of Bath and Brighton did not overlap, Wade was able to occupy positions in both places; he held the post of Master of Ceremonies at Brighton from 1767.

At Bath, the Lower Assembly Rooms were built in the early 1700s. The Upper Assembly Rooms, which had four rooms: the Ball Room, the Tea or Concert Room, the Octagon Room (which links the rooms together), and the Card Room, were built between 1769 and 1771. William Wade presided over the ball conducted to open the new Rooms.

The Octagon Room began life as a card room, where people gathered at tables to play whist and other games of chance. At the centre of the room is a particularly spectacular Whitefriars crystal chandelier, the largest in the building. It was made in 1771 and has 48 lights, originally candles.

Octagon Room

Octagon Room, Bath Assembly Rooms photographed by Glitzy queen00 at English Wikipedia (, CC BY-SA 3.0

Chandelier in the Octagon Room, Bath Assembly Rooms.

Chandelier in the Octagon Room, Bath Assembly Rooms. Photograph by Heather Cowper who blogs at retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, originally uploaded to CC by 2.0

In 1771 Thomas Gainsborough, then living in the Circus at Bath, painted a portrait of Captain William Wade as a present to the new Assembly Rooms. This picture of the first Master of Ceremonies at the Assembly Rooms was hung in the Octagon Room, and hangs there again today. The portrait includes his badge of office, a gold medal enamelled blue worn on an indigo ribbon.

In 1777 Captain Wade was named in divorce proceedings between John Campbell Hooke Esq and Elizabeth Eustatia Campbell Hooke nee Bassett.

Wade lost the position of Master of Ceremonies at Bath as a consequence of the scandal but continued as Master of Ceremonies at Brighton.

Henry Gore, the father of Catherine Wade nee Gore, died in 1777. He left his estates to his son-in-law William and daughter Catherine. These estates included the Mansion at Leatherhead, Surrey, 47 miles north of Brighton and close to one of the main routes from London to Brighton. William Wade would have found the residence conveniently close to Brighton for his duties there.

Following the death of Catherine Wade nee Gore on 26 April 1787 William Wade married Elizabeth Eustatia Bassett, a ‘single woman’, by licence on 30 June 1787. They had already had a daughter together, Georgina Dennison Bassett Wade, who was born in 1783 or possibly as early as 1777. (The index of her death in 1863 said she was 86 when she died and thus born 1777; the census of 1851 gives her age as 68 and thus born 1783.) Georgina was mentioned in her father’s will.

William Wade’s son, Henry Gore Wade, died at sea in 1814. William’s three daughters by Catherine Gore shared in the estate. One of the daughters, Emilia, married Philip Champion Crespigny (1765 – 1851). Philip and Emilia lived in the Mansion at Leatherhead after Henry Gore Wade’s death. Emilia died in 1832.

In his role of Master of Ceremonies at Bath he would possibly have met my 5th great grandfather Philip Champion Crespigny (1738 – 1803), who built his house there in 1786.

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