This portrait caught my eye recently whilst looking at portraits by Gainsborough and I was curious to know a little more about her, especially as she was sporting the high hair fashion of the day.
She was Carolina (not Caroline as noted in many places) Alicia Fleming, born in 1755 to parents Gilbert Fane Fleming and Camilla Bennet. It’s worth mentioning that Carolina’s maternal grandparents were Charles, Bennet, 2nd Earl of Tankerville (1697-1753) and Camilla Colville (1698 -1775). Camilla being a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Caroline and afterwards to the Princess Augusta.
In July 1776 Carolina married the baronet, John Brisco (1739-1805). It was just one year after their marriage that Carolina’s father died, and in his will he made provision for Carolina’s husband to take over ownership of his two plantations on the island of St Christopher, Westhope in St Peters Basseterre and Salt Ponds in St Geo. Basseterre.
Of course, along with the plantations were slaves, in this case the couple inherited a considerable number to work on the plantations. So far as I can tell the couple spent no time at their plantations, presumably preferring to leave them to be managed on their behalf and simply reaping the rewards from the crops. The couple owned several properties around the country including their country estate, Crofton Hall in Cumbria and a house on Wimpole Street in London.
The couple had seven known children, although most sources imply that there were just three. The seven being, Camilla born 1777, their son and heir Wastel in 1778, Caroline the following year, Fleming John in 1781, Augusta in 1783, Emma the next year, followed by Frederick in 1790 and finally, Henry in 1796.
In 1804 just prior to his death, Sir John Briscoe also purchased Alexander Pope’s house at Twickenham, which Lady Briscoe retained for just a couple of years after his death before selling it in 1807 to Baroness Howe of Langar, who, having already demolished Langar Hall, went on to demolish Pope’s house too.
After the death of Sir John, his son and heir, Wastel, inherited all the estates and in November 1806 he married Sarah Lester, daughter of a Mr Ladbrook. Now, despite producing three children including a son and heir, this marriage that proved to be something of a disaster. It is from this point onwards that Lady Carolina’s story has, I’m afraid, been hijacked by that of her son, Wastel. Please be aware, it does not make for pleasant reading from this point onwards.
By 1813, Lady Sarah had had more than enough of her husband and took him to court for cruelty and adultery. This was to prove to be an incredibly lengthy affair lasting for over ten years. Lady Sarah remained at their home in London, whilst her erstwhile husband went to live in their country estate in Cumbria.
As well as the issue of adultery the tricky subject of money reared its ugly head and how much money each of them had and how much they believed they should have as a result of a possible divorce.
Lady Sarah made quite a few purchases for items she needed, not least clothes, as it would appear that during their dispute, Sir Wastel burnt most of her clothes which were valued at in excess of £200 (which is about £10,000 in today’s money).
Sir Wastel however, disputed, not the burning, but the value of the said clothing, and according to him they were worth a mere £10 or £500 in today’s money. Lady Sarah stressed that she not only required new clothes, but that she needed sufficient money from him to live in the lifestyle she was accustomed to and to ensure that his children were well provided for.
Eventually the court allocated Lady Sarah £200 a year, plus £200 a year pin money, but the battles over money continued for years, with Lady Sarah claiming that her husband had been having a relationship with a servant at their home in London, one Sarah Stow of Norfolk. He in turn, accused her of adultery.
Sir Wastel moving out of the marital home and set up home with his mistress, eventually moving to their country residence in Cumbria, where Sarah Stow continued to live as his ‘housekeeper’. Sarah Stow by this time also used the surname Stageman.
The couple, once free of Lady Sarah, although not legally, went on to have at least eleven children, all baptised with just Sarah Stow’s name, no father was named, but you would have thought everyone in the local area would have easily put two and two together to work out who the father was.
It isn’t until you look at her will, which was proven 1853, that you notice that she referred to herself as Sarah Stageman, otherwise Stow. There’s no explanation as to why she used the name Stageman, but it’s you take a look at the slavery register for 1827-1828 for slaves owned by Sir Wastel, that a familiar name appears, in the form of his attorney – a James Stageman. It’s such an unusual surname that he must surely, in some way be connected to Sarah, but to date I’ve no idea how.
Sir Wastel died 1 October 1862 at his country home, at which time his son and heir inherited the title and estate, but what became of his wife, Lady Sarah?
After several years spent intermittently living apart, Sir Wastel stopped paying alimony and found himself back in court, well he would have, had he bothered to appear, instead found himself in contempt of court.
It was in June 1826, that Lady Sarah found herself accused of adultery with the Sir John Winnington, by his wife. In this instance Lady Winnington was granted her divorce as the evidence was clear, he was guilty of adultery with Lady Sarah.
Lady Sarah’s battle with her husband, as they were still not divorced, continued to rage, so much so that he took out the following advertisement in the local newspaper.
Yet again, in 1830, Sir Wastel found himself in court this time, it was a case against him for non-payment of accounts due to a Mr David, that had been accrued by Lady Sarah. On this occasion a number of witnesses were called who testified about the nature of Lady Sarah’s relationship with her husband.
One witness said she had seen him in a compromising position with another woman, another witness, that she had seen Lady Sarah coming downstairs with blood pouring from her mouth and how cruelly she was treated by her husband. Another that she often had cuts and bruises on her body, had her hair pulled out in handfuls, and had been locked in her room with no food or water, the list went on and made for shocking reading. In a nutshell he said that he would persecute her for as long as she lived, which seemingly he did. The judge found in favour of Sir Wastel and that he was not liable for Lady Sarah’s debts.
Life just even worse for Lady Sarah when in 1833 she found herself spending two months in the house of correction at Coldbath Fields, for libel. A few years later she found herself in court once more, again for libel. Lady Sarah died in 1840 and had spent the majority of her life living in fear of her husband and being pursued by him to the end.
The portrait of Anne Birch is housed at the Phoenix Art Museum and is described by them as
George Romney’s depiction of Anne Birch reveals why his portraits were so in demand. Elegantly dressed, seated languidly on a bench in a dark glade that opens tantalizingly to a distant, sunlit view, Anne holds a flute in one hand while resting her head gently on the other.
But who was Anne Birch?
The portrait by George Romney came to my attention recently on social media and apart from her name, the artist and the approximate year it was painted, 1777, little if anything, seems to be known about the sitter, so it was time to do a spot of investigating to see what, if anything, I could find out. Given the instruments in the painting it would appear that she was perhaps a talented musician, but so far nothing has come to light to support this. Music would have been a subject that young ladies like her would have been instructed in, so maybe she excelled in this area.
The portrait is believed to be that of Anne Birch nee Clowes, the daughter and only child, therefore heir apparent, to William Clowes Esq, of Huntsbank, Manchester and his wife Elizabeth, nee Neild, who were married in 1738. Anne was baptised 18 October 1743 in Manchester, making her about 34 when the portrait was painted, although in my opinion the sitter looks much younger, which makes me question whether it could have been painted slightly later and be of her eldest daughter, also named Anne.
So far it hasn’t been possible to establish exactly who William Clowes was, but he was described as being ‘the fourth brother of the House of Clowes, who afterwards settled in Broughton‘. I have however, managed to establish is that William died 15 February 1772, aged 68 and was buried in Manchester Cathedral.
William was clearly affluent, as when his only daughter married on 18 October 1764 the newspapers reported the marriage:
So, we now not only have a family for Anne, but also a husband, John Peploe Birch, Esquire. According to this newspaper we know that Anne was not only beautiful, but also very wealthy, making her, at that time, an ideal candidate for marriage. It appears that the two families knew each other though, so could this have been the marriage of two houses possibly?
Anne’s father William, appears to have had some familial connection with the manor of Broughton Old Hall, Manchester, could this have been where his money came from, but what about her husband, who was he?
John Peploe Birch was born 1742 and was the son of Rev Samuel Peploe, Chancellor of Chester and Warden of Manchester and his first wife, Elizabeth Birch.
John was later to benefit from the demise of his uncle Samuel in 1752, at which time he inherited the estate of Garnstone, Weobley, Herefordshire, which was left in trust for him until he reached the age of twenty-one, to be granted to him if he adopted the surname Birch, which he duly did, retaining Peploe as a middle name.
John and Anne moved to Barnstone which was where they spent the rest of their lives, but whilst in London they also had another home on Curzon Street, Mayfair. During their marriage they had three known children, Anne (1765-1846), Mary (1769-1830) and Samuel (1774-1845).
In 1767 John was appointed High Sherriff of Herefordshire, but as to whether he had an occupation seems unclear or was he simply landed gentry spending his time managing his estate?
John lived until 1805, leaving his estate to his beloved wife Anne, who lived until the age of 76. Both John and Anne was buried at Weobley, Herefordshire.
Anne left a will in which she provided for her three children, Anne who was by that time married to a Daniel Webb, Mary who remained unmarried and Samuel who had married the daughter of Sir George Cornewall, but she described her legacy as being ‘what little I have’. What little she had amounted to about £6,000 (about £300,000 in today’s money), but this is probably far less than she had hope to leave.
Although still little remains known of their life together, this at least sheds a little more light on this beautiful portrait.
The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure … Volumes 12-13. Page 126
The Episcopal See of Manchester by Samuel Hibbert
Memorials of St. Ann’s church, Manchester, in the last century by Charles Wareing E. Bardsley
Manchester, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1573-1812 (Cathedral)
Welcome back to this, the concluding part of the rollercoaster which has been the story of Joseph Paul’s life. If you missed the first two parts here are the links for you – Part 1Part 2
To date we have had the deaths of three wives, at least two, being under suspicious circumstances, an attempted poisoning followed by the sudden death of his godmother, plus an assault and possible relationship with an underage girl.
Life really was proving complicated for Joseph and at the end of January 1845, his son Louis, a mere five-years-old died, following an adverse reaction to a vaccination, but, given the suspicious deaths of the others I simply had to double-check the death certificate, just in case!
Joseph finally left Norwich, but not the county as instructed and towards the end of 1845, at St Andrew’s church at Sprowston & Beeston Norfolk, Joseph, a widower, now married for the fourth time. Wife number four, being Sarah Ann Nickalls,[i] daughter of William and his wife, Mary who were silk weavers; with his daughter, Pauline Emma, standing witness to this union. Rather unusually and decidedly annoyingly, the space in the register where Joseph father was to be named the space was crossed through, leaving his origins still no clearer.
The following year, for a change, Joseph found himself in court yet again, this time it was at his instigation, he was suing a gentleman from Lakenham, a Mr Alfred Massey, over the payment for a horse, but the case was dismissed as there was insufficient evidence.
In 1847 Joseph and his fourth wife, still living in Norfolk, produced a son, John Louis (1847- 1904), who they later had baptised in 1855 in London where they had eventually returned to. Curiously, it was John Louis who went on to become a landscape artist and remained in London until the end of his life.
As to where Joseph and the family had disappeared to around the 1851 census, remains a mystery, they simply vanished from the radar. Around Christmas of 1851, Joseph’s eldest daughter, Eliza was married in Norwich, so she obviously remained there after her father and stepmother had moved back to London. His daughter, Pauline, had by 1853 married[ii] a military surgeon in Liverpool, having described her father on the marriage entry simply as an artist.
Joseph Meek Paul was living in Suffolk in 1851[iii] and the following year he sold all the furniture from a reasonably substantial property at Halesworth, Suffolk which he had inherited from Mr James Meek, who had, with his wife Elizabeth, raised him. In 1855 he was to join the army as a lieutenant, eventually married and went out to India, not returning until the late 1880s accompanied by his family. Caroline also married in Liverpool in 1856[iv] and again confirmed her father to be Joseph, an artist, so Joseph clearly worked as an artist his entire life.
Joseph then reappeared some ten years later on the 1861 census,[v] living a relatively quiet life, as an animal painter, in Rugby, Warwickshire, still with his fourth wife, Sarah Ann and their youngest son, John Louis.
They must have moved there sometime before 1859 as Messrs. Cooke & Son were advertising his animal paintings for sale in nearby Leamington Spa that year.[vi]
His son, Napoleon[vii] remained in Norfolk working as a plumber, glazier and ornamental painter, but he had suffered from a lung disease for several years which could well have been caused by working with lead, when he died in September 1861, aged just thirty.
There was no sign of Joseph for a further ten years until he appeared on the census return for 1871.[viii] By this time he had returned to London where he continued as an animal painter along with his youngest child, John Louis, now a landscape artist, who went on to marry three years later, confirming on the marriage entry that his father’s occupation as that of an artist.
The 1881 census[ix] confirmed that Joseph was still living at Ebury Street, London, with Sarah Ann, who said she was from Norwich and that he was from West Wickham, Hampshire, however, there appears to be no such place as West Wickham in Hampshire, so it begs the question as to whether he was trying to avoid detection or was simply mistaken.
Also on the 1881 census was Joseph’s son, John Louis[x] – but he was describing himself as a landscape artist, a term never used by Joseph to describe himself. Joseph’s other son, Charles, didn’t follow his father into the art world, but became a fishmonger and publican and died in Norwich in 1882.[xi]
In 1884, Joseph’s fourth wife of almost forty years, Sarah died,[xii] leaving a will with a small estate worth ninety pounds, which is about six thousand in today’s money, their son, John Louis was named executor and sole beneficiary but not until Joseph had died.
A year later, on 25 March 1885[xiii] a marriage entry appears in the parish register for Heigham, near Norwich for Joseph Paul, widowed, aged seventy-one, an artist, to a Miss Emma Cattermole, who was only twenty-five.
Joseph obviously returned to his native Norfolk to marry for a fifth and final time. Although, on this occasion, it has to be said, Joseph Paul was as economical about his true age as he had been about where he was born, he was in reality, much closer to eighty which seems slightly late in life to be contemplating yet another marriage, especially to such a young woman, begging the question, did he have something of a predilection for young women all along or did he marry her as someone to care for him in his old age?
This marriage was only to last a couple of years, as in May 1887 Joseph Paul died. The newspaper headlines described him as ‘An artist with five wives’.
An inquest was held at St Pancras regarding his death, aged eighty-three, lately residing at 53, William Street, St Pancras. Hannah Paul, a young woman of thirty-five, although she was really only twenty-seven, said that she had been married to the deceased for two years and was his fifth wife. The press got her first name wrong as it was actually Emma and she went on to marry again a few years later.[xiv]
‘He used to earn a great deal of money, but since she had been married to him, he was in rather reduced circumstances, but too independent to appeal to his children for help. They, however, occasionally, voluntarily assisted him. He had said that if he got much poorer, he should take some chloral and put an end to his life; but she did not think he had done so. He suffered from chronic gout. He expired suddenly in bed early one morning. Dr Maddison, who was called in, and who had since made a post-mortem examination, stated that death resulted from syncope when the deceased was suffering from enlargement and weakness of the heart. The jury returned a verdict accordingly’.
Joseph was described by his wife, Emma, as an animal painter and someone who was extremely fond of his art. The one thing that remained consistent throughout Joseph’s long life was that he painted both people and animals, but there is no indication of having ever painted landscapes which is the main subject matter that he had been known for and most of the artwork I have included in the article have been paintings of landscapes, attributed to him.
Joseph Paul was laid to rest at Camden cemetery on 12 May 1887.
His son, John Louis Paul remained in London where according to the 1891[xv] and 1901[xvi] census he was still an artist and sculptor, he died in 1905, leaving four grown-up children – Florence, William, Dora and Daisy.
So why is his life of importance? Well, if you thought Joseph Paul’s life was complicated, his art was even more so. The art world has attributed many pieces of art to him, and accused him of being a forger, with many of these paintings attributed to him being landscapes and overwhelmingly they were painted in Norfolk, with only a few exceptions.
It does rather beg the question as to whether the landscapes of Norfolk and London were genuinely painted by him? The London scenes attributed to him, are clearly copies of earlier works, some in a similar style to those by Canaletto and Samuel Scott. These are believed to be fakes by Joseph, who, it has been asserted, ran a fake art workshop in London, producing old masters.
Given the questions raised about his life and the questions raised about the deaths of those around him, it does seem feasible that there was something fairly questionable about his artwork too but was he really a forger? who can say. The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC has the following snippet of information about Joseph, quite how true, remains unknown, but given the somewhat complicated life he led, it’s not beyond the bounds of probability.
… he and his assistants turned out forgeries of Constable, Crome, and other East Anglian painters, and of Samuel Scott and other painters of old London views.
The Royal Photographic Society Journal, Volume 55 of 1915, wrote the following, which could arguably be a subtle reference to Joseph Paul, although he wasn’t actually named
He was a great actor, a great singer, a great gambler, a great rogue, and a great fool
This quote was perpetuated by Clifford and Clifford in their 1968 book ‘John Crome’ and again by John T Hayes.
Looking at all the available evidence though, landscape painting was the domain of his youngest son, John Louis Paul. So, were the landscape paintings attributed to Joseph Paul really painted by his youngest son, John Louis Paul, and was it his son and not the father who was the forger? The latter would make much more sense.
To add to the equation, of course, there was another artist around during that period, Sir John Dean Paul, who was reputed to have painted mainly scenes of rural Suffolk, including Willy Lott’s Cottage, famously painted by John Constable, plus one or two paintings of dogs and several scenes of central London.
Sir John Dean Paul, an affluent London banker, was regarded as a talented artist, but one who merely painted as a hobby, he much preferred collecting works of art and there appears to be nothing to place him in Norfolk or Suffolk, which possibly means that several paintings of animals and landscapes in Norfolk/Suffolk which have been attributed to Sir John Dean Paul, were actually by Joseph Paul or his son John Louis.
Many works were unsigned, a few simply signed J. Paul. These could have been Joseph Paul, or his son John Louis Paul or even Sir John Dean Paul. Far more work is required by an art expert to unravel this art mystery. As to whether some of the paintings could be regarded as forgeries or merely stylistic copies is another question entirely, but at least now we know more about his complex life.
[i]Norfolk Record Office; Norwich, Norfolk, England; Reference: PD 211/11
[ii]Liverpool Record Office; Liverpool, England; Reference Number: 283 LUK/3/3
Welcome back to the second instalment of the story of Joseph Paul’s life. We left Joseph last week having been cleared of attempting to murder his first wife, but of course, her death did mean that he still had five young children to care for, so what was to be done?
Well, Joseph wasted absolutely no time at all, returning to London and a mere one month after his wife’s death and having decided that his children needed a replacement for their mother, he married wife number two, Harriott Amick, daughter of David and Elizabeth Amick, at All Soul’s Church, St Marylebone on 17 August 1835. Joseph described himself as a widower from near Norwich, so, was this his place of birth or simply somewhere he had been living? the former would appear the most likely answer to that one.
This marriage began badly, as only a few weeks after the happy couple had exchanged their vows, Joseph took out the following notice in the Hertford Mercury, 8 September 1835
Any person or persons who may trust or furnish my wife, Mrs Paul, late Harriet Amick, of 11 Nassau Street, Middlesex Hospital, with any goods or money, will do so at his, her, or their person as I will not hold myself liable in any respect to pay for, or repay the same, or be responsible for any engagement she may enter into with any person or person whatever. Also beware of receiving by, or through her hands, any draft, cheque, or note bearing my signature, and purporting to be issued by me, as if the same be not a forgery, yet payment thereof is stopped at my bankers.
Aug 31, 1835 J Paul
Whatever disagreement had occurred between them, they quickly put it behind them, left London and headed north, settling in north Suffolk, where they remained for a few years. They presented their two children for baptism at Blundeston and Flixton, Suffolk, only a few miles from Great Yarmouth – Charles Joseph (1836-1882) who became a fishmonger and Louis (1839-1845), who died in childhood.
On 28 May 1839, about four years into their marriage, Harriott suddenly died, aged just thirty and was buried in the parish church. Joseph took their son Louis to be baptised two weeks later, so it would be reasonable to assume she died in childbirth, but given the allegations surrounding the death of his first wife, combined with the notice in the newspaper, it does raise some unanswered questions.
Whatever was going on in his private life, which would have been quite a lot, given that he now had, not five, but seven children to raise alone, presumably with his eldest daughter to help, Joseph was still busy painting, sales of his work presumably bringing in enough to support this large family, and according to the Norfolk Chronicle, 1840, Joseph was, a successful animal artist:
Mr Paul, an artist residing in our town, has painted four bullocks in a very superior style and most excellent likenesses; having seen the animals alive, and since the pleasure of having seen one of the animals repeatedly when grazing… Mr Paul has done him justice.
Animal artist? How very strange, most paintings attributed to Joseph are of landscapes, hardly an animal in sight in any of them!
By the time the 1841 census[i] came around Joseph, describing himself simply as a painter, had taken wife number three, Mary, some fifteen years his junior, and was living on North Road, Great Yarmouth along with five of his now seven children – Eliza now aged fourteen, Napoleon, aged ten, Caroline, aged seven, Charles Joseph, aged four and the youngest, Louis, aged two. So far there is no sign of this third marriage, so whether they were legally married or co-habiting remains a mystery, but either way, they regarded themselves as married, as will become clear later on.
Pauline Emma was recorded simply as Emma[ii] and was living with Joseph’s godmother, Mrs Elizabeth Meek, widow of the late James Meek at St Mary in the Marsh, Norfolk, in 1841, aged ten. The census did not give any indication as to whether she was simply visiting Elizabeth on the day of the census or whether she was being raised by her, but with so many children to support it seems likely that Joseph’s godmother was helping out, Joseph’s eldest son seems to have been missed from the return altogether.
It was the same year that a Mr Paul painted ‘The Hopton Hunt’, a painting which has subsequently been attributed by Bonham’s auctioneers, to a John Paul (c1830-1890), now this couldn’t have been Joseph as he painted landscapes didn’t he? perhaps his son John Louis, no, that would have been impossible as the painting is clearly dated 1841, and his son wasn’t born until 1846. The only other artist who was painting at that time was Sir John Dean Paul (1775-1852), an amateur artist, but the style was completely different to his). If it was painted by Joseph Paul then it would fit with him consistently maintaining that he painted animals.
In October of 1843, Joseph’s third wife, legal or otherwise, Mary,[iii] aged a mere twenty-four, died and was buried at the parish church, Ludham, Norfolk.
Just when you would have thought that life couldn’t get much worse for Joseph following the death of three wives in relatively quick succession, on 19 April 1844, he found himself being accused of attempting to poison Elizabeth Meek, who, in court was said to be his mother, whereas in fact, she was his godmother, her maid, Elizabeth Webb, and William Mundy, her manservant.
In court, Elizabeth Webb stated that Joseph Paul, an artist, had arrived at his mother’s home, Lower Close, St Mary in the Marsh, Norwich, about two o’clock and that he went into the parlour to see Elizabeth Meek, whilst she was eating dinner.
He went through the kitchen and into the backyard. Elizabeth Webb, her servant, said that she heard Joseph walk through the passage, go to the safe door, which was near the pantry. She heard the safe door open and then close and heard footsteps walking away, but from the kitchen window, she could not see who opened it.
She asserted that soon after this, Joseph returned to the kitchen and strangely asked her if she had ever had influenza, but didn’t wait for her to reply and simply left. Elizabeth Webb continued with her statement, saying that she went to the safe and saw some meat there which hadn’t been there earlier, she knew this as she had cleaned it out earlier that day and assumed that Joseph must have left it there. She noted that the meat looked strange, there was something white between the fat and the lean, slightly darker than the white of the fat.
She went on to say that later she saw Joseph walking in the garden with Mrs Meek and saw something on the side of his trouser pocket, like a white powder. She thought it best to mention it to Mr Mundy, who told her she should tell Mrs Meek, which she duly did. Her friend, a Mr Elmer arrived, and Mrs Meek said she should tell him what she had found. Mr Elmer took away some of the white powder, returning the following morning to take away the whole piece of meat for examination by Mr Phillipps, the local surgeon, who confirmed that the white powder was arsenic.
Needless to say, suspicion instantly fell upon Joseph and he was arrested. Curiously, upon his arrest, he was found to have two sheets of paper in his pocket upon which was written his defence, so he was obviously expecting to be arrested. His defence being that it was the servants’ word against his. After only ten minutes, somehow, inexplicably, the jury found him NOT GUILTY and he was acquitted.[iv]
His defence counsel also stated that in all likelihood, Joseph was the illegitimate son of Mrs Meek and as such was unable to benefit from her death, so there would have been nothing to be gained by killing her.
Despite being found not guilty, almost immediately after this, questions were being raised about the death of his third wife, Mary,[v] who had died October 1843, so much so that her body was exhumed in May 1844. Had he poisoned her too?
No, apparently not. The inquest concluded she had died of natural causes with specific reference being made to problems with her lungs, but as the saying goes, ‘there’s no smoke without fire’.
Bizarrely though, Elizabeth Meek[vi] died at her home on 29 August 1844, aged eighty-two, only four months after the alleged poisoning case. Needless to say, an inquest was held. The verdict was that she too had died by the ‘Visitation of God’, not due to any suspicious circumstances.
It seems a little more than simply coincidence that all women who came into Joseph’s orbit were to unexpectedly die, but of course, without any proof to the contrary, he remained a free man.
As if life hadn’t proved challenging enough, only a few weeks after being accused of these poisonings, Joseph found himself back in court. Joseph accused Mr Richard Webb, a butcher of Catton, near Norwich, of assaulting him with a stick on his left arm and right thigh. Webb was planning to plead guilty, but his attorney advised him to plead mitigating circumstances.
Joseph’s account of events being, that as he was walking along Pitt Street in Norwich minding his own business, Webb spotted him, jumped out of his cart and began calling him names and that he then struck him violently with a stick, one blow clearly aimed at his head. Joseph grabbed the stick and retaliated, beating Webb. Joseph claimed that his retaliation was all done in self-defence.
Mr Webb’s wife, Maria who was sitting in their cart, saw the whole thing and verbally abused Joseph. Joseph said he had never had a quarrel with Webb and didn’t know what it was all about. On being cross-examined Joseph explained that there was a young lady who lived with Mr Webb, ‘a pretty lass and an interesting girl certainly’ whom he was in the habit of speaking to, and whom he could not manage to avoid.
Joseph believed that Mr Webb had got an exceedingly ridiculous, absurd and unfounded notion into his head about this girl and had been working himself into a state about Joseph speaking to her.
Naturally, Joseph denied any improper intentions towards the girl. Her father, Mr Robert Puncher, had lately been over at Catton, and in Joseph’s view, had her father thought there was anything improper in Joseph speaking to the girl, that it was his duty, as her parent, to come and speak to him about it and he would have taken notice of a parent’s feelings.
The girls’ father was not present when Webb assaulted Joseph, nor was the girl herself, but Joseph had been speaking to her in the street earlier. The case continued with implications growing of improper conduct on Joseph’s part towards the girl and that was Webb’s sole reason for assaulting him.
When cross-examined, Joseph admitted that he had repeatedly been in the habit of talking to Miss Puncher, had lent her a book and had given her one note and offered her another. He said that he had been told she was only fourteen years old, but he believed her to be older. Mrs Webb had apparently, previously told Joseph not to speak to the girl, but for some unexplained reason, Joseph did not believe she was exactly the person to preach morality. Was Joseph actually on the hunt for another wife, one who would be young, healthy and able to care for his brood?
The defence for Mr Webb asked Joseph if he thought it was acceptable for him to be pursuing such a young girl, especially when he had children of his own who were older than her? Mr Puncher was then called to give evidence regarding the age of his daughter –
she would be fifteen years old on the 28th of this month.
The note which had been mentioned was then produced and read out in court
Dear Miss Puncher
Your kindness and friendship have afforded me too much happiness to be lightly parted with, and could I hope for its continuance no change of circumstances shall ever alter my respect for you.
Mrs Webb much wanted to have read me a stormy lecture, but I thought the least said on my part the better. I am not adept in falsity nor in concealing my real feelings, though I would suffer anything rather than you should have the least discomfort on my account. I trust that for your sake you will shift all the blame on me, as I am beyond the reach of any annoyance; and as to what the world may say I care not one iota.
I know full well that the majority of mankind have a malicious pleasure in destroying the happiness of others, and there are few things that I delight in more than to defeat them. There is much I could say but dare not till I have seen or heard from you. May I hope that you will reply to this! If but a line and say when and where I may meet you without fear on your own account. Believe me, neither time nor difficulty shall alter my feelings, on which, as I last week observed, there shall be no variableness nor shadow of turning. Difficulties may arise, but time must and will overcome all.
Yours ever faithfully
The magistrate, having heard the whole case said that he much regretted that Webb had not been able to beat Joseph more soundly and that he should leave Norwich and not return. They felt that there was little doubt that Joseph’s intention was the destruction of the child. Webb was fined one farthing for assault and Joseph was required to pay the costs. Joseph asked if he could explain the note, but the magistrate said he’d heard enough already, and that Joseph was a disgrace.
Although for anonymity, the newspapers merely recorded the child as Miss Puncher, however, the 1841 census confirmed that she must have been Miss Hannah Puncher[vii] who was living at the home of Richard and Maria Webb, she was recorded by the enumerator as being aged twelve at that time, so her father was telling the truth about her age when the incident occurred, and by 1851[viii] Hannah was back living with her father, aged 22, so again the age was consistent and her age also confirmed in the baptism register.
At this trial, the death of Mrs Meek was raised again. Apparently, before her death she had been at Joseph’s house at Catton but had died shortly after the visit. There were reports from her neighbours about the cause of her death, reporting that she had partially eaten a patty at Joseph’s house and the uneaten part she had thrown to her chickens, which died shortly after eating it.
Mrs Meek made a will, written in 1843[ix], in which she left the bulk of her estate including stocks and shares, in trust until aged twenty-one, to Joseph’s eldest son Joseph Meek Paul, who had lived with her and her second husband, James Meek[x] for many years. Joseph senior described as a portrait painter, and his first five children were also named as beneficiaries.
When James Meek had died back in 1835 he left the ‘portrait painter’, Joseph Paul, two hundred pounds and to Joseph’s son, Joseph Meek Paul, he left other parts of his estate at Cratfield, Norfolk, in trust until he came of age.
The most confusing part of the attempted poisoning case, apart from his acquittal, of course, was that Elizabeth Meek was not his mother, but his godmother as she confirmed in her will. There is no evidence of Elizabeth and James having had any children of their own, but clearly, there was a great fondness for Joseph Paul and his children, perhaps Elizabeth regarded him as a surrogate son and, despite what was said in court, Joseph Paul was to benefit from her death.
The reason for being so specific about references to the type of artist Joseph was being described as, being that many works of art today attributed to him are landscapes and yet there appears to be no indication of him having ever painted landscapes, in fact in December 1843, the Norfolk Chronicle, highly commended his style of animal painting:
The party was also highly pleased with a very faithful portrait of this handsome animal, painted by Mr Joseph Paul, of Catton, who promises to take a very high standing in the Landseer style of animal painting.
To summarise this chapter of his life:- wife number two died suddenly, as did wife number three, who was subsequently exhumed. He’d been accused of attempting to poison his godmother who also died suddenly following this an finally, he got thrown out of Norfolk for inappropriate conduct towards a young girl.
For the final part of this story click on this link.
[i] Class: HO107; Piece: 789; Book: 12; Civil Parish: St Mary in The Marsh; County: Norfolk; Enumeration District: 10; Folio: 6; Page: 4; Line: 20; GSU roll: 438870
1841 Census. Class: HO107; Piece: 789; Book: 12; Civil Parish: St Mary in The Marsh; County: Norfolk; Enumeration District: 10; Folio: 6; Page: 4; Line: 20; GSU roll: 438870[ii]
[iii] Norfolk Record Office; Norwich, Norfolk, England; Norfolk Church of England Registers; Reference: BT ANF 1843_h-l
[iv] England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892
Norfolk Record Office; Norwich, Norfolk, England; Norfolk Church of England Registers; Reference: BT ANF 1843_h-l[v]
[vi] Norfolk Record Office; Norwich, Norfolk, England; Norfolk Church of England Registers; Reference: BT ANW 1844_n-p
Let me introduce you to the Norfolk artist, Joseph Paul, who I came across a while ago on a visit to Newark Town Hall and Museum, Nottinghamshire, who have several works paintings by him. They knew little about the artist, except that I was told that he had left his native Norfolk under something of ‘a cloud‘, which was something I couldn’t ignore and needed to know about the man and more importantly ‘the cloud‘.
I could not have imagined for one minute how this story would work out though, the more I delved into his life the murkier it became. His life was complex and his art even more so – the art remains a mystery for reasons which will become more obvious by the end of his story. Many of the works attributed to him, I’m sure were not painted by him. Over these next posts we will trace his life story, accompanied by some of his paintings, so be warned, we’re in for a bumpy ride!
Joseph worked in both London and his native Norfolk, painted mainly landscapes, was reputedly a forger of famous works of art, such as those by Constable, but was this correct? Oh, and he had five wives and was accused of murder on more than one occasion.
According to the art historian Norman L Goldberg, Joseph was reputed to be the son of an artist, Robert Paul, but somewhat frustratingly, Goldberg provided no explanation as to where this idea came from, so right now that is simply speculation.
With some research, it appears there was a London artist named Robert Paul, but like Joseph Paul, nothing seems to be known about him, apart from the fact that several of his works were exhibited at the Norwich Society in the early 1800s. The Norwich connection arguably makes this a feasible connection to Joseph, however, there remains no proof either way for this assumption. A Mr R. Paul appears to have been painting Georgian scenes of London, but as they are all unsigned it is mere speculation.
A Robert Paul was listed in the Westminster rates returns from the early 1780s to the end of the century and was living on Charles Street, St Margaret’s, Westminster. Was he the R. Paul? It’s not at all clear, but it would fit with him painting scenes of central London. All of this is speculation and so as to whether there was any connection between the artist R. Paul and Joseph Paul remains unknown. Whilst this all appears to be incredibly vague, that is because it is, and no excuse can be made for this, the information at present is simply not known, so the focus has to be upon what is known of Joseph Paul.
Joseph Paul was born in Norwich in 1804. Nothing is known of his education or artistic training. He exhibited at the Norwich Society of Artists in 1823, 1829 and 1832, on the last two occasions as a portrait painter. Sometime after 1832, Paul seems to have run up against the law and fled from Norfolk. He acquired a studio in or near London, where he and his assistants turned out forgeries of Constable, Crome and other East Anglian painters and of Samuel Scott and other painters of old London views. Pauls style, even in his occasional original work, which was lacking invention, is marked by coarse handling with thickly and broadly applied impasto, and harshness of tone. A Yarmouth friend described him thus: “he was a great actor, a great singer, a great gambler, a great rogue, and a great fool”. He is said to have been married five times.
The problem with this being, that the same information appears to have been repeated over the centuries and there is, however, no clear evidence to support it and no-one has, in their assertions, provided any sources, apart from repeating each other, thereby creating a mystery persona for Joseph which may, or may not be strictly accurate. The assumptions are correct in that nothing seems to be known of his childhood or for any degree of certainty who his parents were or exactly where he was born and that he married five times.
All that is known about Joseph’s early life is that he appears to have lived with or at least had a close relationship with his godmother, an elderly, affluent woman, one Mrs Elizabeth Meek of Norwich, who, for a guess, helped him financially to pursue his career as an artist.
By 1825, Joseph was living in London, although quite what led him there is unclear, but it would be a fairly safe guess that it was to pursue his career in art and seek his fortune or was he already trying to escape from his past?
It was in the October of that year when he was to meet and marry wife number one, Eliza Vining,[ii] who was nineteen and therefore under the legal age of twenty-one and as such would have needed her father’s consent, which was duly given. Joseph stated he was a Joseph Paul, Esquire from Dover, Kent on the marriage register, so was this true and if so, what was his connection to Norfolk and his godmother, had his parents perhaps died and he had been raised by her or was this to be a little white lie?
Joseph and Eliza soon produced five children, Eliza (1826-1910) who later married a local fishmonger named Thomas Bush; Joseph Meeke (1828-1891) who left England to become a tea planter in Upper Assam; Pauline Emma (1829-1908) who married an army officer, William Appleton; Napoleon (1831-1861) who became a plumber, but who also dabbled in art as an ornamental painter, but who died aged thirty, and last, but not least, Caroline (about 1835-1906) who married a draper, Richardson Taylor.
After the birth of their second child, Joseph and Eliza left London and travelled to Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, where their second daughter Pauline was born, followed by Napoleon.
The youngest of these children, Caroline, consistently stated she was born at Ware, Hertfordshire, as to what they were doing there is unclear unless they were on their way back to London, and although there is no trace of a birth or baptism for her anywhere, however, it does appear likely that she was telling the truth, because, in the parish register of nearby Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, there is a burial entry on 14 July 1835 for Joseph’s first wife, Eliza Paul, along with one for a baby, Josephina, aged one month.
Given these entries, it seems highly likely that Caroline was the surviving twin.
With the tragic death of Eliza, this would have left Joseph with five children, all under ten years old to raise alone, but this was not an end to the matter, questions were being raised about Eliza’s death and as such an inquest[iii] was held at nearby, Hoddesdon.
Joseph, described as a local portrait painter, was suspected of foul play, the allegation having been made by Eliza herself. Described as a very anxious and excitable person, she told a witness just before her death she thought Joseph was trying to poison her, surely this could not be true?
She was in her confinement at the time which would seem to correspond with the burial of Josephine and so she must have been one of the two children Eliza was carrying. After the inquest, it was concluded Joseph was innocent of any charges as there was no tangible proof of him having murdered her, but instead that she had died of natural causes. The surgeon believed, given her condition, that she had become confused and stated the cause of death was simply a ‘Visitation of God’ and on that note the case was closed, Joseph was a free man.
Do join me next week to find out more about his life and four more wives, more confusion about his artwork, oh, and some more suspicious deaths and even an exhumation!
Many people will by now be aware of this painting, ‘Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom’ which was purchased earlier this year by the Art Gallery of Ontario, following its sale by Sotheby’s in New York, where the painting achieved a figure of $68,750, a not insignificant sum. Whilst I wouldn’t normally mention the price achieved for a portrait, it does have some significance in this post, so bear with me.
Since ‘lockdown’ it has not been possible for the public to see the portrait in person, however, curators have been busy behind the scenes ‘virtually’, discussing its significance and many of their interesting discussions can be heard if you follow this highlighted link.
Returning to this portrait though, from the style of her dress it appears to have been painted about 1760-1770 and I wonder whether the portrait was possibly commissioned to mark some special event, perhaps a milestone birthday or an upcoming wedding, pure speculation of course as no-one knows anything definitive about this painting as yet.
The artist has beautifully delicately captured the clothes, the exquisite pale blue silk dress and what appears to be very expensive jewellery – earrings, pearl necklace and bracelets. This is clearly the portrait of a young woman of some significance – but who she was remains a mystery at present.
Who was the artist? At present we have very few clues to go on, his/her name was noted by Ontario as being J. Shult, the remainder of the name remains unknown, so perhaps J. Shultz, which implies German/Austrian, or maybe even Dutch. To date there’s no name that seems to match amongst reasonably well-known artists of that period, but perhaps once the gallery have been able to do more research a name could come into view.
It has been suggested that it may be Johan Christoffel Schultz, a Dutch painter and printmaker who lived from 1749-1812 and below is another portrait attributed to this artist:
The portrait is of Miss Rebecca Steel, New Timber, Sussex, but there does appear to be a couple of problems with this attribution. Miss Steel’s birth was registered at Newtimber, Sussex, in 1722 and she is noted to have married in 1752, becoming Mrs Norton at that time. If the artist wasn’t born until 1749 then he can’t possibly have painted her. The portrait was sold in 2012 by a Boston auction house, Skinners and the reverse of the painting it simply says ‘J. Schultz Pinxit’ along with the sitters name. Given the discrepancy over dates it seems more likely that the painting of our young lady could be Johan’s uncle, Jeremias Schultz.
More importantly though the main reason the portrait ‘Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom’ caught my eye was because I have seen, what now, I would suggest could well be a companion piece by the same artist, so here we have a young man, again beautifully dressed in green silk, titled ‘Portrait of a young man wearing a green jacket holding a cane.’
The cane he is holding is really curious, as when you zoom in on the painting, which you can do by viewing it on this link, it appears to have a rounded top with gold braid around it. The use of a cane/stick was often used to signify importance status. So, like our young woman, this man too was someone of importance and like her, is currently unknown.
He looks to be about the same age as the girl which initially made me wonder whether, given that she is holding orange blossom, which, in all likelihood symbolises purity/chastity, that these two portraits were painted just prior to their marriage.
My other thought and possibly more likely, is that when you look more closely at the pair together that they could be siblings or maybe even twins – what do you think?
The portrait of the young man has a fascinating back story. It was sold by Christie’s, New York in 1996 by an anonymous seller, then again by them in 2011 for a mere $750.
Compare that to the price recently paid for the young lady – the portrait of her achieving a price of some additional $68,000. Clearly, when his portrait was sold in 2011, it was clearly regarded as unimportant, especially as again, the artists name, J. Schult (German, 18th Century) was only partially visible.
The 2011 sale was very curious, as the portrait was being sold as part of a larger collection on behalf of a man who had died suddenly in 2006 from a heart attack. The man in question had, as a young man, changed his name from Melvyn Kohn to what he decided would be a more suitable name and with his parents blessing he became William Milliken Vanderbilt Kingsland.
Kingsland/Kohn appears to have led a fascinating if curious life and you can find out more about him if you go to the sources heading below!
From 1986-1991 Kingsland worked at Vito Giallo Antiques, on Madison Avenue and was also known to the singer, Elton John and the artist Andy Warhol, who was said to have befriended him for a time.
Upon his death his massive artwork was found, much of which the FBI took a very keen interest in and some of it was eventually sold on behalf of his family by the New York County Administrator including that of the young man above.
This now makes we wonder if the two paintings we’re now looking at were, at one time, together either in a museum or in a private collection and have over time, become separated.
I’ve been working with Jo Langston of Christie’s who is trying to track down the portrait of the young man since its sale and we’ll keep you posted if we find out where it is as it would lovely to see the pair together for comparison. We’d like to think it’s either still with an art dealer or in a gallery, but we do suspect it’s become part of a private collection.
It will require much more work to confirm whether it could be a pair as right now it’s purely a theory, but an exciting one which I wanted to share with you. I hope you agree.
John Church Dempsey found his way on to my radar as we have previously looked at a couple of his paintings, ‘Black Charley‘ and ‘Jemmy, The Rockman‘ and so, I wanted to find out a little more about his life.
John was baptised in 1802 at the non-conformist chapel in Walcot, Bath, to parents Edward and his wife, Martha. Edward was possibly the master of St. Michael’s Poorhouse, in Bath, who died in 1826 from apoplexy, but further proof is needed to confirm this at present. According to baptism records, John appears to have been an only child and possibly born later in their marriage.
In 1819 at Bedminster, Somerset there is a curious marriage entry for a John Church Dempsey to a Hagar Maber. If this was his marriage and there’s no reason to doubt it, then he married at a mere 17 years old. There is no sign of his bride after their marriage, nor any evidence of her demise so far, so quite how long this marriage lasted remains unknown.
Two years after this marriage John was advertising his services as a portrait painter in the Bath Chronicle of 13 December 1821, the property still exists as you can see from above. Given that he was a mere 19-years-old, it seems highly unlikely that he had received any formal training as an artist, so perhaps just a natural talent for capturing likenesses.
And this one just a couple of days later.
Quite how much time John spent living in Bath seems unclear, as his paintings seem to show that during the 1820’s he travelled all around the country from north to south and east to west, over a period of just two years, during which time he painted at least 51 paintings of some fascinating characters, perhaps he thought he would achieve more by painting ‘ordinary people’ rather than the great and the good who lived Bath to take the waters and socialise.
He then seems to vanish for a number of years, reappearing in 1841 in the St James’s district of Bristol where he continued to work as an artist and was living with someone by the name of Sarah. It seems unclear as to who this Sarah was, but she was about 7 years his junior and not from the county. The 1841 census was a little vague on information so it was impossible to tell who this woman was at that stage.
However, three years later John married for a second time, interestingly his new wife was Sarah Neal Muirhead, the widow of Alexander Muirhead of Alverstoke near Fareham, Hampshire. John and Sarah married at nearby Portsea, so it seems feasible that his new wife was the one named on the 1841 census and perhaps it just took them a while to make their relationship legal.
Their marriage entry confirmed that John was also a widow and that his father, Edward, was a gentleman, as was John. John has been described as a semi-itinerant, quite how that description befits a gentleman I’m not quite sure.
In 1845, not only was John an artist but both he and Sarah were running a stationery shop and from there they were not only selling art-related material but also dealing in pictures, lamps and chandeliers.
This diversion from his art was perhaps due to lack of funds as the following year he was declared a bankrupt. The couple moved from their home to one on Barr’s Street, Bristol sometime after this where John was to continue working as an artist, but also interestingly, took on an additional role as a tin plate worker.
By the 1860s clearly, John was aware of the progression of the medium of photography and this fairly new technology was one that John was to embrace as he described himself as a ‘photograph artist’ on the 1861 census.
He obviously felt this new technology wasn’t for him and by 1871 he returned to being a landscape artist, so right back to where he began his career. John was to die on 9th February 1877 at his home, 32, Upper Arcade, Bristol. Sarah lived for a further 24 years, spending the remainder of her life living at Trinity Almshouse, Bristol.
There are still many of his paintings in the collection which need to have their stories told … maybe one day they’ll all be clearly identified.
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 7 December 1826
Births, Marriages and Death registers
‘The Singing Minstrel’, Billy Button (b.c.1778–1838). John Church Dempsey (1802–1877) Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
I first became acquainted with this gentleman when a good friend on social media messaged me with ‘I think this story needs you‘. Say no more, I was off down that rabbit hole. What a fabulous painting by John Dempsey of an early 19th-century gentleman from Norwich, but with no name apart from ‘Black Charley’ and nothing more known about him.
Black Charley, Norwich, 1823
The newspapers and parish registers came to the rescue in identifying this very dapper-looking man in his very smart clothing, who appears to have made and sold fashionable boots and shoes from a shop in Norwich, but perhaps looks can be a little deceptive.
The National Portrait Gallery of Australia (to whom the portrait was on loan to from Tasmanian Museum and Gallery), suggests that the gentleman may have been a child brought to England by Capt. (later Rear-Admiral) Frederick Paul Irby who had him baptised in 1813, as Charles Fortunatus Freeman, along with two other children and whilst this is feasible the dates don’t seem to tie up as you will soon find out.
Firstly, let’s give him the name by which he was known – may I introduce to you Mr Charles Willis Yearly of Norwich.
As yet nothing is known about where he was born, whether here in the UK or overseas, but from his burial, we now know that he was born around 1785 which arguably means that he was not the child baptised in 1813, as this would have made him around 28 at the time, so not a child. I still have no idea where the middle name ‘Willis’ came from.
On St Valentine’s Day 1820, Charles married Diana Norman of rural Stradbrooke, Suffolk, at the parish church of St Michael at Thorn, Norwich.
Despite his very dapper appearance, neither he nor Diana was able to sign the register and instead simply made their mark with an X, which leads me to think that perhaps these were more than likely second-hand clothes. The witnesses being Elisha Briggs, a farmer and landlord of The Two Necked Swan, Norwich and William H Houghton., who appears to be the second witness to all marriages around that date.
It was at the end of 1822, at the parish church of St Andrew’s, Norwich that the couple proudly presented their first son and heir, Charles Willis to be baptised. At the time Charles gave his occupation as being that of a ‘broker’, essentially a salesman, so not actually making the boots and shoes in the painting but selling them from his shop, these were second-hand boots and shoes.
The following year saw the arrival of a second child, again a son, Richard Willis, who died aged just two. The next birth was that of Jeremiah in 1825, followed by a daughter, Lydia in 1827.
At the end of 1828 things were not going well for Charles when he found himself in the House of Correction for assaulting a woman, this sentence being ‘three months on the treadwheel‘, which must have made life difficult for Diana as she was pregnant at the time with their final child who was born February 1829, a daughter, Mahalah.
It was then in 1829 that Charles was to die, aged just 44, and was buried on June 17 at St Andrew’s church. Given his sentence, it seems feasible that the time spent on the treadwheel may well have contributed to his demise (speculation of course).
His death was closely followed by that of his infant daughter, Mahalah, whose name appears on the same page of the burial register, but on the 31 December.
This left Diana to work out how to proceed as a widow with three children under 10 – Charles, Jeremiah and Lydia for comfort, but more importantly, to support if they were to avoid the workhouse.
The family business was taken over by a gentleman by the name of Mr Clarkson, who was described in the newspaper as
a dealer in old shoes, being the same colour and successor of a gentleman well known in Norwich by the title of Black Charley.
We meet up with Diana again on the 1841 census, the family had left their shop and moved to Black Horse Yard, Lower Westwick Street, in the St Lawrence district of Norwich.
Clearly, money was in short supply as Diana had become a washerwoman, but by now she had her three children all in their teens to assist with the household chores as well as being in employment. Her son, Charles was a labourer coachmaker, Jeremiah, a hawker, selling around the local area, the census doesn’t offer any clues as to what wares he was selling though. Lydia was just 13, so it would be safe to assume she was helping her mother until aged just 16, she was to die.
Quite what became of their son, Charles is a little unclear, but in 1842 he found himself in court a few times for theft.
In another newspaper report, Charles was described as ‘a mulatto son of Old Black Charley‘, thereby confirming that Charles and Diana’s marriage was a mixed-race marriage.
Young Charles Willis re-surfaced in Bristol when, in 1854 he described himself as a cook when he married a young widow, Catharine Harman. He named his father as Charles Willis, describing him as a cook – this is an occupation that doesn’t seem to have appeared anywhere else.
Being slightly suspicious, I do wonder whether he was being completely truthful when he married, especially as he also got his age wrong – he said he wasn’t born until 1826 when he was born 1822. Quite what happened with this marriage is lost to history right now, but curiously he appeared again in 1862, back in Norfolk where both he and his co-conspirator, John Harman were sentenced to a month in prison for larceny. Was John Harman connected to his wife Catherine, who knows, but it’s an unusual surname, so it seems likely. There is a burial for a Catherine Yearly in 1862 which in all likelihood was Charles’ wife.
Charles re-offended and found himself back in prison only a matter of weeks later, for a further six weeks.
Diana spent her remaining days living in Suffolk, with her son Jeremiah, his wife, Sarah, where at the age of 75, Diana was still working as a laundress.
In 1871, Jeremiah was a marine store dealer and by 1881 they had converted their home into a lodging house – 6, Mariners Street, Lowestoft where they remained until the end of their lives. Jeremiah was buried on 10 June 1886, aged 65, at Lowestoft, just two years after his wife Sarah Ann and as the couple had no children, with their death the Yearly name died out unless any proof appears that young Charles had any children, although that seems unlikely.
It would appear from the 1871 census that Diana was living at the House of Industry, Oulton, Suffolk, incorrectly named as Eliza Yearly, but with her age and place of birth being correct. She died there, aged 90 in 1879.
As you will probably be aware by now, we have been busy researching Dido Elizabeth Belle and as part of this, we have looked at those within the inner circle of her extended family. This has led us to look at Sir Thomas Mills, who was reputed to be the ‘nephew’ of Lord Mansfield. We have tried to find confirmation as to Mills actual connection to Lord Mansfield, but without any success so far. Some accounts record him as Lord Mansfield’s ‘nephew’, others as a ‘consanguineal relative’ and others that he was really Lord Mansfield’s ‘illegitimate son’. Neither appear to be true.
He seems to have appeared from nowhere and the only clue as to his identity is that he had a sister, Elizabeth, who died in Edinburgh according to the newspapers on May 9th 1775, however, there’s no obvious burial for her.
It appears that Mills was born in Scotland around 1736-1738 to a mother who never left her native country. To date, we’re unable to place Lord Mansfield in Scotland, but who knows, maybe he nipped back across the border for a brief liaison and Mills was the result, but it does seem highly unlikely.
Whatever the relationship, Lord Mansfield was extremely fond of him. He regularly dined at Caenwood House. Sylvester Douglas (Lord Glenbervie), a prominent lawyer and diplomat wrote of Mills, that he was illiterate but frank, friendly and dashing and had served with ‘distinguished bravery’. Mills was given the post of Governor of Quebec after his military service, it appears that Lord Mansfield had a hand in arranging this position.
It is rare for us to take such an immediate dislike to someone we write about, but this character is one with very few redeeming qualities. He was a spendthrift and it appears a liar too; spent money like water, getting himself and his family into debt. Everything we’ve read about him seems to be negative, so it seems strange that Lord Mansfield had such a soft spot for him, unless there’s something we’re missing!
We then came across this beautiful miniature by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which is of a Lady Elizabeth Mills, née Moffatt, who was baptised 29th January 1756 at St Mary Woolnoth, London, the daughter of Andrew and Katherine (née Creighton) Moffatt. Her father, Andrew was a merchant and both he and his brothers were heavily involved with the East India Company.
The family lived at Cranbrook House in the extremely affluent area of Ilford, Essex, opposite Valentines and next to Highlands, an area where all the well-to-do families who were connected with the East India Company lived.
In November 1774, Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Mills, when she was just 18, a marriage which would prove to be an interesting one.
A marriage settlement was made by Elizabeth’s father of some £10,000 (just under one million today) but despite this large sum of money, Mills continued to spend more than he earned and even had to be bailed out by his father-in-law on more than one occasion, to the extent that Andrew Moffatt made provision in his will of 1780, for his siblings, daughters and grandchildren, but specifically mentioned that his son-in-law was indebted to him to the tune of £5,000, a debt which he wanted to be reimbursed to the estate as soon as possible, he was clearly not impressed by his son-in-law! It was slightly strange, as he also left Sir Thomas £100. Which seems to make little sense in light of his debt. Andrew also left 20 guineas to his good friend Lord Mansfield for him to buy a ring in memory of him and money for Elizabeth’s sole use, exclusive of her husband.
Despite our view of Sir Thomas, Elizabeth must have felt something for him, as the couple produced three children – Andrew Moffatt Mills born just over 9 months after they wed; Elizabeth Finch Mills (1776) and finally Catherine Crichton Mills (1779).
According to the Oxford Journal of July 1772
When Sir Thomas was returning home in a chair, he was surrounded by four street robbers in Windmill Street, Haymarket, who stopped the chair, and one of them presented a pistol and demanded his money. Sir Thomas told them that he would not be robbed and endeavoured to seize the pistol, at this point one of the assailants fired, he missed Sir Thomas who burst open the chair door and attacked the robbers who then fled. There were no watchmen nearby and the chairmen didn’t even try to assist to apprehend the robbers.
Was this a ‘set-up’? It seems highly likely, in our opinion.
Sir Thomas Mills died 23 February 1793 and left no will and it appears with no money either to leave, but despite what the newspapers said, he was not named as a beneficiary of Lord Mansfield’s will, who died 20th March 1793.
His wife Elizabeth died in June 1816.
History tells us that the Moffatt family were plantation and slave owners in Jamaica, as the family went on to make claims in 1832 for monies owed for freed slaves.
In our latest book, which is based on our blog and titled All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, one of the 25 true tales within tells of the life of the red-headed actress, Elizabeth Hartley. Elizabeth was a beauty, but not particularly vain; she disparagingly said of herself ‘Nay, my face may be well enough for shape, but sure ‘tis freckled as a toad’s belly’.
Born Elizabeth White, and from Berrow in Somerset, Elizabeth had a sister, Mary, who also had strikingly red hair. Mary made a good marriage to the Reverend, later Sir Henry Bate Dudley, minister, playwright and newspaper editor, a ‘witty and profligate man’ who glorified in the nickname, the Fighting Parson.
While researching Elizabeth Hartley we came across a Thomas Gainsborough portrait held by the Ascott Estate (National Trust), painted in the late 1780s and depicting a woman with red hair. The identity of the subject is disputed: it is labelled as either Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond or Elizabeth Hartley.
This is the painting.
We contacted the estate who gave us some information from their guidebook relating to the portrait.
John Hayes has called this ‘one of the most ravishing of Gainsborough’s late romantic portraits. . . . The enigmatic smile and slightly distant expression heighten the poetic mood of the canvas.’ The supposed sitter was the daughter and co-heir of Charles, 4th Earl of Elgin and 3rd Earl of Aylesbury by his third marriage, in 1739, to Caroline, daughter of the 4th Duke of Argyll. She married in 1757 Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond and Lennox. There were no children of the marriage and the title devolved upon a nephew.
The picture has been called a ‘late London work’ by Waterhouse, and ascribed more precisely by Hayes to 1786–7, when Lady Mary would have been more than 45 years old. In an endeavour to resolve the discrepancy between the sitter’s apparent age and the evident date of the picture, it has been suggested that she is the wife, Lady Louisa Gordon Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond, and not the sister-in-law of Thomas Conolly, to whom this picture is said to have belonged, but neither the dark-haired Hugh Douglas Hamilton pastel of her at Springhill, Co. Londonderry, nor the Romney of her at Goodwood, Sussex, bear this out. Yet nor can one detect any resemblance with the equally dark-haired sitter in the Chardinesque Reynolds of Mary, Duchess of Richmond, sewing that is likewise at Goodwood.
Two of the images mentioned of Mary, Duchess of Richmond are shown below and we think you’ll agree that they look nothing like the redhead in the Gainsborough held by the Ascott Estate.
There appears to be no record as to why it is suggested that it may be a portrait of Elizabeth Hartley, other than the obvious red hair, but if it is not Elizabeth, we have another suggestion for the identity of the sitter in the Ascott portrait. We believe that she might be Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. The Fighting Parson was a patron of Gainsborough, and a good friend to the artist. Thomas Gainsborough painted Henry Bate Dudley in 1780.
And, in 1787, he painted a glorious full-length portrait of Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. Did he also paint a second portrait around the same time? We think that the lady in the Ascott portrait bears a marked resemblance to Lady Bate Dudley. The two images below are from the known 1787 portrait of Mary, both unfortunately losing some of the impact of the true colour of the original which was recently exhibited at the Tate. The gallery label at the time said that:
Mary Bate-Dudley was married to Gainsborough’s friend and champion, Henry Bate-Dudley. She’s shown here in a romantic woodland setting, leaning on a classical pedestal and an urn. Her pose is languid yet statuesque and the gesture of her left hand suggests a refined sensibility. Unusually in Gainsborough’s art, Lady Bate-Dudley’s head is shown in profile. This is a dramatic ploy intended to elevate the painting beyond the everyday world of conventional portraiture to the realm of High Art.
Gallery label, February 2016
As an aside to this, Henry Bate Dudley did have a connection to Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond as, in 1780, the Fighting Parson was sentenced to a year in prison for libelling her husband. And, you can read more about him and his sister-in-law, Elizabeth, in the pages of All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, available now in the UK in hardback and illustrated with over 100 colour images.
I’ve long been intrigued by a portrait on the Art UK website of a rather dishevelled and – quite frankly – eccentric figure, which, so the label claims, depicts William Hornby (incorrectly labelled as Hornsby) of Hornby’s Bank in Gainsborough, a market town in North Lincolnshire.
The archives office in Lincoln claims differently; they believe it depicts William’s brother, Joseph who, they suggest, was a well-known eccentric character in these parts.
Which brother, then, is in the rather cruel portrait?
Joseph was born at Gainsborough in 1729, the eldest child of Joseph Hornby senior, a prosperous mercer in the town. Seven more children followed but all except two, William (born in 1732) and John (1739), died in infancy. The elder two of the three sons, Joseph and William, followed their father into the mercantile trade.
At his death in 1762, Joseph Hornby senior left considerable inheritances to his three sons.
Gainsborough was a thriving and prosperous town in the eighteenth-century, boosted by trade from the busy River Trent which passes through. The Hornby family’s wealth grew and, together with Sir Joseph Esdaile, Esq, William opened a bank, the first known to exist in the town. In partnership with two other gentlemen, they also established the Chesterfield Bank in Derbyshire.
In 1760, William Hornby took out a lease on the medieval timber-framed Gainsborough Old Hall and established a coarse linen factory in part of the building and sublet the rest. The factory lost money and the old manor house was in a poor state of repair.
You peeped in and saw its great ground floor apartments occupied by joiners, and coopers and bricklayers – depositories for lime, hair, and bricks – and you turned away disgusted.
By 1790, Hornby had wound up his factory and sublet the Great Hall of the manor house to a Mr West, who used it as a theatre. The staircase which was temporarily added at this time to access the theatre can be seen on the print below.
By the end of the century, troubles were mounting up. The partnership which ran the Chesterfield Bank (William Hornby, Joseph Esdaile, Samuel Raynes and Richard Gillett) was dissolved in 1799. By 1803, William Hornby could no longer meet his creditors’ demands and he was declared bankrupt. The Gainsborough Bank was no more.
William Hornby is reputed to have ended his days in penury, being cared for by a woman who had formerly been his cook, dying ‘at an advanced age’ (he was 72) in February 1805 at Doncaster, just over the county border in South Yorkshire.
After all this, are we any closer to identifying which Hornby brother is shown in the painting? Well, there is no contemporary mention of Joseph being an eccentric. At his death in 1811 (he was buried in the churchyard of Gainsborough All Saints) he is described as formerly being ‘an eminent merchant’. No hint of madness or eccentricity.
It seems more likely that the painting is a cruel depiction of William Hornby. Perhaps in his pursuit of wealth and in his running of the bank, he made an enemy of someone who commissioned this painting in revenge? Or, was it painted after Hornby’s bankruptcy, the work of a creditor who was left out-of-pocket and wanted to leave a lasting visual legacy of the former banker, that of a miserly man down on his luck.
At this distance in time, and with no other evidence to hand, we are simply left to wonder.
Following on from a blog about Dido Elizabeth Belle, one of our lovely readers made us aware of this unusual painting titled, Young Woman with Servant which is on display at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Why unusual? It is odd on so many levels. For starters the subject matter, it is titled ‘young woman with servant’ so which is the young woman and which the servant? Whilst looking at it, we found ourselves almost playing a game of ‘spot the difference’.
Let’s look at each woman in turn. The seated woman is wearing no jewels apart from very plain earrings and a jewel on her apron. The artist has made her face appear somewhat one-dimensional and she’s staring into the distance. Would she really have been the one holding the fruit? The hat with flowers is such, a typical wide-brimmed day hat.
The servant: she is dressed in all her finery, notice the detailed lace around the neckline and the arms of the dress, much more elaborate than the lace which the other woman is wearing. She wears no hat, instead, a form of headdress with a fashionable feather in it and a jewel. And those jewels! She is much more adorned than her seated companion, wearing an elaborate necklace and earrings too. Her hand resting on the naked skin of the other woman – would a servant ever be allowed to do that? A symbol of intimacy, surely not acceptable at that time? She is also looking directly at the artist (and viewer) and appears much more three-dimensional. The dress may also be riding habit, if you look closely you can see the ‘frog fasteners’ typically used on outdoor wear.
The setting itself looks to be a hothouse or possibly an artificial grotto. There is fruit in the seated woman’s apron and the orange just about to be picked and added to it. Notice the chair that the ‘mistress’ is sitting on.
We have tried to find a similar example of that period, but without success, although there are reproductions of virtually the same chair dating from the late 1800s which describe it as Rococo (1725-1755), possibly French or Italian, playful, ornate and curvaceous, with a shell-shaped back and serpent arms.
So, it does rather beg the question, is the young woman standing really a servant or an equal? It has also been given the title, Two Society Women.
The painting appeared in a Sotheby’s catalogue of sales dated 19th November 1986, which gave it a yet another, Ladies Gathering Fruit, c.1750, so we contacted Sotheby’s hoping for some more information on its provenance, but unfortunately, they were unable to provide responses to individual questions, so we were no further forward. We also approached Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and are still hopeful of a more positive response from them.
We then decided to research the artist himself, Stephen Slaughter for more clues.
Stephen was born in London in January 1697, one of five surviving children of Stephen and Judith Slaughter. Their other children were Edward, Catherine, Mary and Judith.
Very little seems to be known about his life and as such he warrants very few mentions in books, only half a dozen entries in the newspapers of the day, a brief resume in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies and a short entry on Wikipedia.
Slaughter studied under the famous Godfrey Kneller, then travelled abroad to France and Flanders, returning to England around 1732. He then moved to Dublin for a number of years, returning to London in the 1740s.
In 1745 he was appointed Surveyor of the King’s Pictures (George II), with a salary of £200 per annum (around £24,000 in today’s money). From 1748 until his death in 1765, Slaughter spent time on picture restoration. He was buried on 2nd April 1765 at Kensington.
Just to set the record straight here, only one of his female siblings married and that was his sister, Judith.
There has been much debate as to whether she married the artist John Lewis, but we can confirm that she didn’t – she married a Paul Lewis, when she was aged just 16, as confirmed by the marriage allegation dated 4th January 1726, St Giles in the Field.
Judith was widowed by the time her brother Edward wrote his will in April 1770. We can confirm, however, that the artist, John Lewis’s wife was Mary as named in his will, proven 1781.
Each of the siblings left their estate to the next in line with Catherine being the last to die in 1786.
Suggestions have been made that this is a portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle with Lady Mary Milner. This seems extremely unlikely as the two women look to be of similar age and Lady Mary was considerably older than Dido.
If we accept that it was painted by Stephen Slaughter then he died when Dido was a mere toddler so it couldn’t possibly be her in the painting. So either way, as much as we would like it to be a portrait of both women, the theory falls flat on its face.
The portrait raises far more questions than it answers, so if anyone knows anything more about this painting, we would love to hear from you.
UPDATE 9th March 2019 – A Painting Within a Painting
Well, we did ask people to get in touch if they knew any more about the painting and we were contacted by Sheila Graham-Smith who is presently researching it, which sent us disappearing down another rabbit hole.
To cut a long story short, we knew from the Sotheby’s sale catalogue that there was a familial connection between the Manvers family of Thoresby Hall and the Butterfield family at Cliffe Castle, so arguably the painting could be of someone from either side of the family, or simply a painting purchased by someone in the family for its aesthetic value.
Purely by chance, we came across this painting by Marie-Louise Roosevelt Pierrepont (1889-1984), of Thoresby Hall, which is a painting of her daughter, at Thoresby.
To the back of the painting you will clearly see that she had painted in Slaughter’s painting, ‘Ladies Gathering Fruit‘ (alternatively titled, Young Woman with Servant). The location of the painting whilst at Thoresby was clearly not taking pride of place, merely hung at the end of a corridor.
I contacted Thoresby who were able to confirm that, whilst not presently on display, they do hold the painting by Marie-Louise Roosevelt Pierrepont, a prolific artist and that the location depicted was Thoresby Hall and not Cliffe Castle as queried by ArtUK, but that they don’t know anything more about the original.
We have now reached another dead-end with research in terms of identifying either of the sitters, but hopefully, we’ll get there eventually.
FURTHER UPDATE 30 JUNE 2020
I have recently been been sent yet another version of the painting, but note the differences. I now have no idea which would have been the original painting.
Ancestry.com. London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597-1921[database on-line]
This blog is a little different in so much as it is primarily looking at some sketches that we came across whilst doing a spot of research at North Yorkshire archives. We were looking for a specific 18th-century person as part of our research for our book, A History of the Dukes of Bolton: 1600-1815, when the archivist told us that they had a book of sketches by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton (1740-1807), that she thought we might like to see.
Thomas Orde married the daughter of the 5th Duke of Bolton, Jean Browne Powlett and assumed the name Orde-Powlett in 1795. He was then created 1st Baron Bolton two years later.
Upon opening the sketchbook, we were amazed by who we found and are excited to share them with our lovely readers. These sketches have probably been safely preserved in the archives and rarely if ever been looked at for years.
So, bear in mind these are private sketches, never published as works of art, but merely drawings by Thomas. There are quite a few sketches in the collection which were drawn at an event in Buxton 1777 but they are mainly family ones, apart from one of the Duchess of Devonshire. So far we haven’t found any references to any event that took place in Buxton matching that year, so we can only presume it was a private gathering but presumably he took his sketchbook with him and you can almost imagine him sitting there sketching people. We are aware that other sketches are in the public domain, but we can’t find anywhere that shows these beauties. As to whether the individuals would have been flattered by their likenesses, who can say. Others are not dated, so we have no idea when or where they would have been sketched.
We have put the sketches alongside known portraits of the sitters, we would love to know what you think.
We begin with Emma, Lady Hamilton. This one is not dated.
Next we have Anne, Marchioness Townsend. She looks decidedly ‘matronly’ and not at all glamorous in this sketch unlike her portrait by Reynolds. We’re not at all sure she would have been flattered by this sketch.
Next, we have Mary Isabella, Duchess of Rutland. Note the fashionable ‘high hair’.
Then we have the beautiful Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and her sister, Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough.
There’s another one of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, this one is dated and was sketched at Buxton.
To find out more about the child that the Duchess of Devonshire raised as her own, Charlotte Williams, despite the child being the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, follow the highlighted link.
Last, but by no means least we present the actress, Mrs Sarah Siddons.
In our previous blog about the turban that Dido Elizabeth Belle was wearing in the portrait of her with her cousin, the Honourable Lady Elizabeth Murray, we mentioned that the portrait was reputed to have been painted by Johann Zoffany and we promised to give you an update with some new information.
We now know more about the turban, courtesy of one of our lovely readers, Etienne Daly, who has been diligently researching Dido for some considerable years now and believes that the turban that Dido was wearing was not merely a fashion statement but was a gift to her from her father, Sir John Lindsay, so it was not part of a portrait ‘costume’ as had been assumed.
Sir John was invested as a Knight of the Bath in an extravagant ceremony in India on 11th March 1771.
At that time he was presented with ‘a very rich dress of gold brocade, made after the European manner with the star upon the left breast,’ a ring with several titles engraved on it in Persian and a turban, all given by Nawab Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah.
We think it seems a lovely gesture that she would wear it as a ‘nod’ to her father, in the only known portrait of her.
If you look closely at the turban you will notice that it sparkles; it seems highly likely that it would have been studded with gold and diamonds. You will also note the presence of a black ostrich feather at the back of the turban. Now, this was a fashion statement! It is also worth mentioning that the fashion of the day was to wear rouge and Dido was no exception to this.
Ostrich feathers were all the rage in the mid-1770s and Dido’s uncle, Viscount Stormont bought some back from Paris in 1774. Perhaps he gave one to Dido and following the fashion, she added it to the turban?
Viscount Stormont also presented one to the Duchess of Devonshire on his return, and being the fashion doyenne of the day, she sent the fashion world into a spin by adding it to her hat. This sparked the caricaturists into a frenzy, creating the most elaborate caricatures with the largest of plumes, as you can see above.
It has to be said that the Duchess of Devonshire was mocked mercilessly and according to the British Museum:
Lady Louisa Stuart wrote in her old age of “the outrageous zeal manifested against the first introduction of ostrich feathers as a headdress. This fashion was not attacked as fantastic or unbecoming or inconvenient or expensive, but as seriously wrong or immoral. The unfortunate feathers were insulted mobbed burned almost pelted…”.
When Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, dined with Lord Mansfield in 1779 he met Dido and recorded the following in his diary:
A black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies, and after coffee, walked with the company in the gardens, one of the young ladies having her arm within the other. She had a very high cap and her wool was much frizzled in her neck, but not enough to answer the large curls now in fashion. She is neither handsome nor genteel – pert enough.
We now move on to look at the artist of the portrait. It has long been reputed to have been painted by Johann (John) Zoffany, but this is now disputed, and to this day it remains ‘artist unknown’.
It is acknowledged that Zoffany went to Europe for several years, finally returning to England at some stage in 1779 the very year that the portrait was reputed to have been painted.
From the account of his life, John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810, it tells us that he remained in Coblenz well into the summer of 1779. Although not impossible, it certainly would have given him little time to have painted Dido on his return. So, if we discount Zoffany that leaves only a few other possible artists, two of whom we think were feasible. One would be Allan Ramsay’s protégé, David Martin (1737-1797), who was known to the family as he painted the stunning portrait of Lord Mansfield.
The slight difficulty we have with the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth Murray being painted by Martin is that again there is a question as to whether he was still living in England in 1779 or if he had returned to his native Scotland (although he retained his property in Dartford until 1782). Certainly, we know that in 1780 Martin was in Scotland when he was admitted to the Royal Company of Archers. Again, the dates are tight!
If it was definitively painted in 1779, then it is feasible that he could have at least had some input into the work, especially as Ramsay had severely injured his hand a few years previously which stopped him taking on any major projects.
The other difficulty we have with Martin is that Etienne has checked Lord Mansfield’s accounts. These proved inconclusive.
So, that leaves only the principal painter to the King (George III), Allan Ramsay, and although we don’t have the expertise to validate this, with the research we have done it would appear far more likely that it was painted by him. Why? Well, there are several reasons to suppose this.
Firstly, we understand that the portrait was commissioned by Lord Mansfield, but there is no record in his accounts of him paying for any such portraiture.
Secondly, given the socially precarious position Dido held in Georgian society, then why not ‘keep it in the family’? Especially when you have an extremely distinguished portrait artist as an uncle to call upon, in the guise of none other than the Scottish portrait painter, Allan Ramsay who was married to Margaret Lindsay, the sister of Sir John Lindsay.
Thirdly, despite an earlier family ‘falling out’ over Ramsay being not regarded as a suitable match for Sir John’s sister, Margaret, we know that the family had been reconciled and Ramsay was, at this time, close to Dido’s extended family. Amongst his paintings, there was one, if not two portraits of Sir John Lindsay himself, so again, it would seem natural for him to paint his illegitimate daughter. Ramsay also named Lord Mansfield and Sir John Lindsay in his will, another sign of the close familial ties.
Finally, the posing of the subjects in the painting appears very relaxed and informal as if being painted by someone the girls knew well and were comfortable with.
Hopefully one day someone will be able to validate the artist and settle that unanswered question once and for all, perhaps one for the BBC’s Fake or Fortune to investigate!
To see the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth in situ, it would be well worth a visit to Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland or to the home, where she spent many of her years, Kenwood House (Caenwood as it was formerly known as), Hampstead.
During our research into the life of Dido, we have also discovered NEW information about Sir John Lindsay’s other illegitimate children and NEW information about what became of Dido and her husband John Davinière. To find out more follow the highlighted links.
Following the BBC’s programme Fake or Fortune, you might be interested to read our thoughts on the findings.
The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland by Sir James Balfour Paul
General Evening Post, September 14, 1771 – September 17, 1771
English Common Law in the Age of Mansfield, by James Oldham
We came across this portrait by George Romney, in the Frick Collection purely by chance, and wanted to know more about who the sitter was, so off we disappeared down one of our proverbial rabbit hole in search of more information about her.
Our first port of call was the Frick itself, who were extremely helpful and sent us all the information they had about the painting. So, exactly who was this enigmatic woman?
We knew that Dido Elizabeth Belle’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray had married into the Finch-Hatton family, but we hadn’t come across this lady within the family, which slightly surprised us, as she would have been somewhere around the same sort of age as both Dido and Elizabeth, perhaps a little older, but not much.
Some sources had suggested that the portrait was possibly Lady Elizabeth Murray, but somehow that didn’t seem to fit, we couldn’t see a likeness at all. There was another suggestion that she was a different Lady Mary Hatton, the daughter of Daniel Finch-Hatton, 7th Earl of Winchilsea, but it couldn’t possibly be her, as she died in 1761 and the portrait wasn’t painting until 1788, also her appearance confirmed that it had to post-date 1761.
Miss Mary Hatton, the daughter of Sir John Finch-Hatton of Longstanton Hall, Cambridgeshire and wife of Hale Wortham Esq.
Further information from Romney’s own ledger tells us the number of sittings it took to complete the painting, where Mary was living at the time and how much was paid.
It seems quite feasible that this was a pre-wedding painting, as Mary married a gentleman named Hale Wortham at St Marylebone, on 4th December 1788, the very year it was painted or perhaps her mother wanted a painting of her daughter as a keepsake.
However, with more research, we discovered that even this information wasn’t quite accurate, she was not the daughter of Sir John Finch-Hatton, but his sister and that she was the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Hatton, 8th Baron of Longstanton, Cambridgeshire (1728-1787).
Sir Thomas and his wife Harriott Dingley (daughter of Dingley Askham Esq), married 22nd April 1752 and had 8 children – Mary, in the portrait, was the eldest and born 4th October 1754 at Conington, Cambridgeshire.
Her siblings were Harriet (1755); Frances (1757); John (1758) later to become the 9th Baronet; Elizabeth Ann (1759); Susanna (1761); Anne (1763) and the youngest, Thomas Dingley Hatton (1771) who became the 10th and final Baronet. When Sir Thomas died in 1788 he helpfully named all his children individually in his will, so we were now certain we had the correct person.
An entry in the Dictionary of National Biography suggests that before Mr Wortham, Mary’s hand in marriage had been sought by Dr Richard Farmer of Emanuel College, Cambridge.
At this time he [Farmer] formed an intimacy with Sir Thomas Hatton, bart., of Long Stanton, Cambridgeshire, and for some time aspired to the hand of his eldest daughter. The marriage was postponed on account of Farmer’s want of means, and when after many years this objection was removed, he found on mature reflection that his habits of life were too deeply rooted to be changed with any chance of perfect happiness to either party. Such is George Dyer’s version of the story; but Cole says: ‘Dr. Coleman told me, 3 May 1782, that he had it from sufficient authority, that Sir Thomas Hatton had refused his eldest daughter to Dr. Farmer, but upon what foundation he knew not. The lady is 27 or 28, and Dr. Farmer about 47 or 48. It will probably be a great mortification to both, as to every one it seemed that their regard for each other was reciprocal. Dr. Farmer’s preferment is equal to 800l. per annum; and I guess the lady’s fortune, there being six daughters and two sons, not very great’
We still hadn’t worked out where the Finch-Hatton mistake had come from in her name, she was simply Mary Hatton, not Finch-Hatton. Even at her death, there was no reference to the Finch part of her surname. According to the Oxford Journal 1st November 1828 and the London Evening Standard, 21st October 1828:
Mary, relict of the late Colonel Wortham and eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Hatton, Baronet of LongStanton, died 17th October, aged 74.
So we moved on the checking her will which was proven on 20th November 1828. Mary left a number of bequests to each of her living sisters, Anne, Elizabeth Ann, and Susanna, all just named as Hatton, not a ‘Finch-Hatton’ in sight. She also left £200 (which is around £13k in today’s money) to Addenbrookes hospital.
Finally, this led us to the will of one of her siblings, Anne who died in 1842 and in her will she left part of the family estate to a relative – Rev Daniel Heneage Finch-Hatton, the son of Lady Elizabeth Murray, so it seems likely that is where the erroneous addition to Mary’s surname came from, but quite what their connection was to the Finch-Hatton’s we still haven’t managed to confirm, so, more work required!
Sources and Notes:
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 18: Farmer, Richard by Thompson Cooper
A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland and Scotland by John Burke and Bernard Burke, 1841
Pictures in the Collection of Henry Clay Frick: at One East Seventieth Street, New York, 1910
Birth/baptism of Mary and her siblings – Familysearch online
The will of Sir Thomas Hatton (1788) – The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1161
The will of Mary Wortham nee Finch (1828) – The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1748
The will of Anne Finch (1832) – The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1799
Hale Wortham died February 19th, 1828 (Cambridge Chronicle and Journal29 February 1828)
We came across a painting on the ArtUK website, simply titled The Children of Captain RD Prichard and dated 1827; the artist is Philip August Gaugain (1791-1865). It captured our attention and so we decided to turn art detectives and find out a little more on the history behind the portrait. As a result, we can now put names to the two children and provide a little more information on Captain Pritchard.
Their father was Captain Richard Davison Pritchard of the Royal Navy. Born on the 30th May 1788 to Samuel Perkins and Ruth Ann Pritchard, he was baptised at St Mary, Newington on the 19th June. Richard’s father was a naval man and, following in his father’s footsteps at a very tender age, he joined the navy as a Volunteer 1st Class on the 10th August 1797, serving on board HMS Prince and rising to the rank of Midshipman by 1799. Service on HMS George and Blenheim followed before he joined HMS Royal Sovereign, the ship on which he would serve, as Master’s Mate, during the Battle of Trafalgar which took place on 21st October 1805.
Richard Davison Pritchard subsequently served on many royal naval vessels, seeing action and receiving wounds, He was twice discharged from his ship; in 1808 from HMS Terrible upon which he had the rank of Acting Lieutenant he was ‘invalided and unserviceable’ and the following year he joined HMS Avenger as a Lieutenant but was discharged ‘invalided’ at the end of 1809.
At 22 years of age, he married Mary Ann Davis, on the 3rd July 1810, at the church of St Andrew by the Wardrobe. Interestingly, banns had been read at St Clement Danes for three weeks from the 31st December 1809, but no wedding had taken place there. Did Mary Ann’s family object to her marriage to an out-of-employ naval officer? She was mentioned in the Naval Chronicle as being the only daughter of the late John Davis of Binfield, Berkshire.
Their son, the boy in the portrait, similarly named to his father as Richard Davis Pritchard, was born in the following year, at Langley near Windsor and then there was a gap of 10 years before their daughter Rosanne Mary Pritchard was born, on the 5th February 1821 at the Bank House in Southampton. Rosanne Mary was baptized on the 4th March 1821 at Holyrood, Southampton.
During these years, Pritchard had served in the Transport service between November 1813 and August 1819, attaining the rank of Captain by which he is denoted in his children’s portrait, before embarking on something of a different career path. Rosanne Mary’s birthplace, Bank House, gives a clue. In partnership with a man named John Kellow, Pritchard had gone into business at Southampton as a banker and trader, continuing in this vein until the partnership was dissolved on the 30th December 1827.
It was in the same year that Pritchard’s banking business came to an end that his two children were painted by Gaugain, when they were aged 16 and 6 years. Gaugain also painted the portrait of a Captain Pritchard and a Mary Ann Pritchard three years earlier, and surely these must be their parents, Richard Davison and Mary Ann Pritchard.
The portraits of Captain and Mary Ann Pritchard are held by Southampton City Museums and the portrait of their children by the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
In later life Captain Richard Davison Pritchard returned to his former profession, serving on HMS Meteor and Avon as Lieutenant Commander from February 1838 to September 1841, before he gave up the sea for good. The home to which he retired was Keydell House, an ‘uncommonly pretty cottage villa’ at Horndean in Hampshire.
It is altogether a little snuggery, in a valley of extraordinary beauty. The house stands or rather nestles under the shadow of the hill, on a lawn resplendent in flowers and American plants, looking around its domain without a feeling of envy for any spot in England. It is, in fact,
A BIJOU on a PETITE SCALE…
Perhaps it was his wife’s illness which had prompted the end of his naval service, for Mary Ann Prichard died at Keydell House on the 12th March 1842, leaving her husband inconsolable. She was buried in the churchyard at the nearby village of Catherington a week later. Pritchard put Keydell House up for sale.
DEATHS. On the 12th inst., at Keydell, Horn Dean, Hants, after a long illness borne with the most exemplary Christian patience, MARY ANN, the beloved wife of Capt. R.D. PRITCHARD, R.N., aged 54 years. Her loss will be long and deeply deplored by her afflicted husband and family, and also by a large circle of friends to whom she was endeared by her amiable and affectionate disposition and many virtues. In the circle of her private life, she exhibited a useful example of simple and warm piety, and of that meekness, quietness, and easy seriousness of deportment, which so well become the Christian woman.
Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 21 March 1842
The following year Captain Pritchard was living at Hampton Grove in Surbiton, Surrey, although he died at Fareham in Hampshire on the 4th January 1849. He was buried five days later at Catherington near to his former home, Keydell House, and alongside his beloved wife.
So, what of the two children in the portrait? Rosanne Mary married the Reverend Thomas Pyne, incumbent of Hook near Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, at Wonston in Hampshire on the 8th October 1850. It was fated to be but a short marriage for Rosanne Mary died on Valentine’s Day 1853, at Surbiton. Her obituary named her as the ‘only surviving child’ of the late R.D. Pritchard Esq, so her elder brother had predeceased her. He was alive when his father wrote his last will and testament, on the 16th December 1843. In that will Captain Pritchard left everything to his daughter Rosanne Mary, stressing that it was not for want of affection for his son that he had done so, but simply because his son had been amply provided for already in ‘bringing him up to his present profession’. Possibly he is the Richard Davis Pritchard who was appointed as a surgeon by the Royal Navy in 1833.
On the 14th inst., at Surbiton, aged 32, Rosanne Mary, the beloved wife of the Rev. Thomas Pyne, M.A., incumbent of Hook, Surrey, and only surviving child of the late R.D. Pritchard, Esq., Captain in the Royal Navy.