Rigby’s Spa Town Vision
When Richard Rigby (1690-
spectacular parties at Mistley Hall attended by members of the government and even on occasion by royalty. When the young French aristocrat Francois de La Rochefoucauld visited Mistley in 1784 he found it ‘a very small place, fifty houses at most, which are so well built and so spruce that you see at a glance that they all belong to the same owner. Mr Rigby owns the whole town… All houses except one belong to him, but the owner of this last one would never sell it to him; and so that strangers don’t compare it with the others, he has painted his red, since the others are white.’
The French nobleman remarked on the trade of the port which he said was ‘created entirely by Mr Rigby’. His tutor and companion, Maximilien de Lazowski, was more precise in his comments, saying that ‘Newcastle ships bring coal which is either distributed by cart into Essex or Suffolk or carried on upriver by barge to Sudbury. The whole neighbourhood brings its corn here to be embarked or stored for the London markets and all the coastal ports. There are six ships at the quay – a fine sight.’
Oddly enough, that is just the number of ships shown at the quay in 1778. There is a seventh vessel, a sloop, in the ‘New Dock’ at the west end of the quay beside a large building described as ‘Store House’. Beyond that is a deal yard, and on the land behind the church (the Towers are the only surviving part of the church that was re-
Richard Rigby was not the most careful steward of the fortune he had inherited from his father, and he was saved from the effects of his lack of thrift by his close friendship with the Duke of Bedford, who loaned him £5,000 – and immense sum at the time – and on his death in 1771 not only released Rigby from the loan but left him a further £5,000. Rigby was Paymaster to the Forces from 1768 – 1784, and when he died in 1788 it was said that ‘he left nearly half a million of public money’. However, much of the wealth he accrued was spent very much to the benefit of the village of Mistley and its inhabitants.
Rigby’s parties at Mistley Hall became famous both for there magnificence and for the eminence of many of the guests. It is said that local people used to assemble near the front of the Hall to watch the guests arrive, and that on one wintery occasion Rigby sent his servants to serve punch to the spectators.
Here the family name crop up again. Lord Rigby II had a very public affair with Sarah Lucas, the result being a daughter also names Sarah. Mother and daughter inherited on his death; the daughter a small fortune for those days. I have found no further mention, I guess they moved away and lived out their lives very comfortably.