Richard was the fifth child and third son of Sir James Bateman, Kt. and Esther daughter and co-heiress of John Searle of Finchley in Middlesex. Sir James was the eldest son of Joas Bateman, a Dutch trader who had settled in London, and Judith de la Barre, the daughter of a Fenchurch Street merchant of French extraction. Joas accumulated a considerable fortune, died in 1704, and was buried in the Dutch Church at Austin Friars. Sir James, was Lord Mayor of London, a Member of Parliament, first for Ilchester and then for Eastlow, and one of the original Directors of the Bank of England. A financial genius, he negotiated many public money schemes for the Government both at home and abroad, and became immensely wealthy. He purchased Shobdon Court, the family seat in Herefordshire, and died in 1718, while Chairman of the South Sea Company, then at the height of its prosperity. By his wife, Esther, Sir James was the father of four sons and three daughters. William, the eldest son, became Baron Culmore and Viscount Bateman. He had "all the advantages of education and, when abroad on his travels, made a better figure than some of the foreign princes through whose realms he passed." He "collected everything curious in painting, statuary, etc, and returned an accomplished gentleman." George I seems to have been of a different opinion and, as the story goes, created William an Irish peer, to avoid giving him the Order of the Bath, saying that he could make him a peer, but could not make him a gentleman. Be this as it may, Lord Bateman received the coveted Order from George II and in 1732 became a Fellow of the Royal Society. He married Lady Anne Spencer, grandaughter of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. She was no favourite of the great Duchess, who used to exhibit her portrait with the face blackened and the words "She is much blacker within" inscribed on the frame.
Little is known of Richard’s earlier years, but he seems to have travelled extensively both at home and on the Continent. About 1730, he chanced to visit an old inn on the Thames at Old Windsor, at once fell in love with the little property and, as the owner refused to sell, became the lessee. He also rented the old Kingsbury inclosure, now the Priory Park, and the Church Close, part of which forms the present Vicarage lawn. By 1741, at the latest, he had built the Hermitage to the north and converted a cow-shed to the south into the Garden House, subsequently Princess Elizabeth's Cottage. Exactly how long our friend occupied the old inn, which he called Grove House, we do not know, but he seems to have lost little time in turning it into a museum, filling it with the many treasures he had collected on his travels, and making great changes in the grounds. Planting and the laying out of estates was a fashionable hobby of the period. Bateman planted like his contemporaries. He adhered to the Chinese cult - indeed Walpole, who seems to have been greatly influenced by the older man during his Windsor stay of 1746, describes him as the English founder of the Sharawadgi taste - and before long pagodas, bridges, and temples appeared in the grounds, and the external aspect of the house itself assumed the studied irregularity which the devotees considered so important.
In 1732, Richard Bateman and Henry Fox (father of Charles James, MP for Windsor and later the 1st Lord Holland) were appointed Receivers-General for South Wales. The pair belonged to the celebrated coterie which included Henry's brother, Stephen (Lord Ilchester), Lord Hervey, Thomas Winnington, Horace Walpole and Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams. The last, a brilliant and versatile writer, lived at The White House (subsequently Old Windsor Lodge and now The Grange) in Old Windsor. He is unfortunately and undeservedly best known by his ribald parody, Old England's Te Deum, addressed to King George II. Richard Bateman and Henry Fox were rival claimants for the hand of Isabella, widow of the 2nd Duke of Manchester, elder daughter and co-heiress of John, Duke of Montagu and grandaughter of the great Duke of Marlborough. She was reputedly the greatest beauty of her day. The Duchess, who inherited Datchet Manor and Ditton Park from her father, was the central figure of Hanbury-Williams' most ambitious effort, Isabella or The Morning (1740), which makes several references to Richard, as do his odes on The Conquered Duchess written after it was revealed that she had already remarried. Sir Charles became briefly, an extraordinarily successful diplomat on the Continent. He, however, continued to pay rates for the White House at Old Windsor until April 1749. Horace Walpole had tried to obtain a lease of it from him three years earlier, but was forestalled by another applicant and took a ‘barrel’ at the Castle instead. The effect of the Duchess's marriage on Richard Bateman is perhaps shown by the fact that he made a short will leaving practically everything to his nephew, the 2nd Viscount Bateman, in 1747, and never altered it. In the same year, he and ten other ‘men of fashion’ were caricatured by Garrick, when playing the part of Fribble in his own comedy Miss in Her Teens at Covent Garden. Mrs. Delany, the famous bluestocking, artist and writer, hated the play, but could not help admiring the portrait of "our friend, Dicky Bateman." Dicky was a frequent visitor at Mrs. Mary Delany's and her autobiography mentions him in connection with Old Windsor as early as 14th December 1743, when she wrote from Bulstrode that she had, that morning, accompanied the Duchess of Portland to wait on the Duchess of Kent. They dropped Dr. Delany at Mr. Bateman's but found afterwards that he was expected at Beaumont.
It was Horace Walpole who claimed the honour of converting our friend from a Chinese to a Goth, and he had certainly been stopping at Grove House in 1758, for the poet, Gray, addressed a letter to him there. The conversion must have been some years earlier for, by 1752, Bateman had already persuaded his brother to allow him to rebuild Shobdon Church in full Strawberry Hill Gothic style, probably using the skills of Walpole’s draftsman, Richard Bentley. Sadly, they swept away some of the country's most magnificent Romanesque carvings in the process. Whatever the facts of the case, "every pagoda took the veil" at old Windsor and Grove House became a mock-monastery. It was as a monastery that it gained its fame and it is to this phase of its existence that it owes its present name of The Priory. Bateman and his circle of friends became known as the 'Monks of Runymede'. He settled an unmarried sister at The Hermitage and let The Garden House to another of his cronies. Richard Bentley, soon arrived from Twickenham to transform Grove House and most of the new creations were on Strawberry Hill lines of lath, plaster and stucco. Tiny towers, frail battlements and pointed windows metamorphosed the original house and new structures were linked up by cloisters, all completed by 1760. The house, its contents and grounds became one of the sights of the neighbourhood, attracting visitors such as John Wesley. In fact, visitors were said to come to Windsor to see "Bateman's and the Castle," not vice versa.
Bateman, in his later years, was greatly enamoured of Mary, Lady Hervey, whose portrait hung over the fireplace in the refectory at the Priory. This remarkable woman, with a genius for friendship, had, in her youth, been a famous beauty and the heroine of the well-known jeu d'esprit by my Lords of Chesterfield and Bath. Women esteemed her as highly as men, poets French and English sang of her wit and grace, statesmen praised her wisdom. She herself boasted that she had never lost a friend except by death, and even Horace Walpole could find nothing to say against her. After Lord Hervey's death in 1743, she built herself a house in St. James's Place overlooking Green Park in Westminster. Both Walpole and Bateman saw much of her in London, and the Priory used to welcome her for a few weeks every summer. Several glimpses of these visits have been preserved. In 1760, she wrote from Caversham, "I have passed very near a month at this sweet place ... I shall ... then go to Mr. Bateman's; all of which is within the distance I allow myself from my own house, for I never will be farther from it than a day's journey, that I may never be ill in any other house than my own". On 8th August 1763, she announced from Old Windsor, "I shall leave this place tomorrow. I think we have had but one fine day in the three weeks I have been here; the roads are such as they are in the winter, and I believe I must get a boat instead of my post-chaise to carry me." In June, 1765, Walpole apologised for his absence from a party she had given before leaving for Old Windsor, closing, "As Mr. Bateman's is the kingdom of flowers, I must not wish to send you any; else, madam, I could load wagons with acacias, honeysuckles and seringas. I beg my warmest compliments to your host and Lord Ilchester."
Lady Hervey was ageing and a martyr to gout and rheumatism. She firmly believed in the efficacy of the Sunninghill waters and used to visit 'the Wells' both from the Priory and from the Countess Gower's at Bill Hill in Hurst. Walpole wrote, on 26th June 1766, "Pray, madam, continue your waters; and, if possible, wash away that original sin, the gout ... If it should cease raining by Monday ... I think of dining with your ladyship at Old Windsor, and if Mr. Bateman presses me mightily, I may take a bed there." Writing in June 1768, she said, "I am going to Old Windsor to meet some old friends, but shall stay there but a week; after which I shall go to Ickworth for a fortnight, then return that I may go and drink my Sunninghill waters for six or seven weeks. I am persuaded that I owe my being so much better this year to the effects these waters have on my blood." Walpole spent a whole day with her at the Priory towards the end of August, and wrote to Lord Holland that he did not think he had seen her look so well for some years. She was taken ill on the 18th of the same month, insisted on being moved to London two days later, and died at St. James' Place on 2nd September.
The Squire, as Dicky used to be called, is said to have lived "like a King among his subjects." No country festival was complete without his presence and he himself entertained the villagers at Christmas, Twelfth Night, Easter and Whitsuntide. He saw that the ancient May Day rights were regularly celebrated in appropriate fashion, providing every couple married on that occasion with a complete outfit and each attendant maiden with a white frock, to be kept religiously for use at weddings and funerals. Richard Bateman breathed his last on 1st March 1773, when his nephew, and former ward, John, Viscount Bateman, entered into possession of the Priory.
Edited from T.E. Harwood's "Windsor Old & New" (1929).
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