Saturday, 19 December 2015

Jane Austen & the Rice Portrait - Who were the Harding Newmans? Part Two - The Lefroy Connection

This is part two in a series of posts about the Harding Newman family, owners of the Rice Portrait for some fifty years or so. I have written previously about Eliza Hall and her family connections to Jane Austen HERE where I explain how the portrait came into the ownership of the family. I have written about Eliza Hall's husband Colonel Thomas Harding Newman and his antecedents HERE.

But there are other interesting family connections too - and links to a family whose name is known to everyone with even a passing interest in Jane Austen's life - the Lefroy family of Carrigglas.

Colonel Thomas Harding Newman had three children by his first wife, Harriet Cartwright. They were Thomas Harding Newman, Harriet Newman and Benjamin Harding Newman. Neither Thomas Harding Newman nor his sister Harriet Newman ever married. Thomas Harding Newman later inherited from his father while Harriet Newman lived all her life with her aunt, Amelia Newman, at Royal Crescent in Cheltenham. Their mother Harriet Cartwright died in 1815 and Colonel Harding Newman married Eliza Hall two years later.

Royal Crescent, Cheltenham

Thomas Langlois Lefroy
Their brother, Benjamin, the second son of Colonel Thomas Harding Newman and Harriet Cartwright, married Anne Lefroy Sadleir in about 1840. She was the daughter of Richard Sadleir of Scalaheen, Tipperary and his wife Elizabeth Sadleir née Lefroy.

Elizabeth was the sister of Thomas Langlois Lefroy, the subject of the delightful, exuberant early letters written by Jane Austen in 1796, when she was 20. Whether it was a serious affair or just fun and games is impossible to know. It came to nothing however, and Tom, who met Jane when visiting his aunt, went back to London to continue his studies. Three years later he married Mary Paul. There is an interesting account of Tom Lefroy here and an excellent account of the relationship between Tom Lefroy and Jane Austen here. Tom was staying with his aunt, Madam Anne Lefroy, Jane Austen's neighbour, friend and mentor, who was the wife of (Isaac Peter) George Lefroy, the rector of Ashe, near to the Austens. She died as a result of a riding accident on 16 December 1804, Jane's 29th birthday.

Jane Austen referred to Tom's sisters as the 'Miss Irish Lefroys': 'the third Miss Irish Lefroy is going to be married to a Mr Courtenay,' she wrote in 1798 (in fact Sarah Lefroy to whom Jane was referring, was the fourth daughter.) Elizabeth was the fifth Miss Irish Lefroy, four years younger than Tom. She had married Richard Sadleir in 1817 and had two children, Anthony Lefroy Sadleir and Anne Lefroy Sadleir.

After Benjamin Harding Newman's marriage to Anne Lefroy Sadleir, they initially remained in Ireland where there first child, Benjamin, was born in 1842. (This child would later inherit the Rice Portrait portrait from his uncle Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding Newman.) Shortly afterwards, Benjamin Harding Newman and his young family travelled to Southampton. Anna remained in Southampton while her husband, a Captain in the Royal Navy, set sail for Bermuda. Anne was pregnant with her second child but her husband would never see his daughter.  Harriet Elizabeth Newman was baptised at Southampton in January 1844. Meanwhile Capt. Benjamin Harding Newman died in the yellow fever outbreak of October 1843 at the Royal Navy base at Ireland Island, leaving his young widow with two babies under three years old.

Memorial to Benjamin Harding Newman
at Ireland Island, Bermuda
Two years later Anne's father, Richard Sadleir, died in Ireland and by the time of the 1851 census Anne and her mother Elizabeth, both now widows, and the two children are all living together in Cheltenham. It seems likely that the fact that Anne's sister-in-law, Harriet Newman who was close to her in age, lived in Cheltenham was the reason the women moved here as there is no other obvious connection to the town. All four women - Elizabeth Sadleir, Anne Harding Newman, Harriet Newman and her aunt Amelia Newman remained living in Cheltenham for many years.

On 8 November 1814 Elizabeth Sadleir's cousin Benjamin Lefroy, the youngest son of Anne and George Lefroy married Jane Austen's niece Anna Austen, the daughter of Jane's brother, James. Benjamin Lefroy's sister, (Jemima) Lucy Lefroy married Henry Rice, who unfortunately turned out to be a hopeless spendthrift and the couple were dogged by financial problems for much of their life. Henry's younger brother, Edward Rice was married to Jane Austen's niece Elizabeth Knight. How closely these families are all entwined together! In yet another link between them, Anne Lefroy Sadleir's cousin Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy, the son of her mother's brother Anthony, married Anna Austen's daughter, Anna Jemima Lefroy.

Once again we can see how the Harding Newman family link to the Austens and their circle through their family connections.

And what of the two young children Benjamin and Harriet, who never knew their father? Harriet Elizabeth Newman married a solicitor, Arthur Croker, and moved to Ealing together with Harriet's mother. Benjamin Harding Newman married Charlotte North, the daughter of a doctor and JP from Brecon, in 1868. Later, he would inherit the Rice Portrait from his childless Uncle Thomas and so we'll hear more about him in a later post.












Thursday, 3 December 2015

Jane Austen & the Rice Portrait - Who were the Harding Newmans? Part One - Thomas Harding Newman and his antecedents


Richard Newman Harding by George Romney
In my previous post about Eliza Hall, I recounted how the Rice Portrait, according to its later owner Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman, was given to his step-mother, Eliza Hall. It was to remain within the Harding-Newman family for over fifty years. So who was this family and what do we know about them?

Previous generations

Eliza Hall’s husband, Colonel Thomas Harding Newman was the son of Richard Newman Harding. He was born in 1757, to Sarah Newman, daughter of Richard Newman of West Ham Abbey in Essex and Benjamin Harding, of Hacton House, near Hornchurch.

Like the Hall family, the Hardings and the Newmans owned slave plantations in Jamaica. The UCL site Legacies of Slave Ownership records the relationships between the various members of the family with dealings in Jamaica which were principally at Blue Hole in Hanover.

In around 1770/71 the youthful Richard Newman Harding had his portrait painted by George Romney, not long before the latter set off on a tour of Italy with his close friend Ozias Humphry in March 1772 to study the great Italian artists. The portrait descended down the family line to Benjamin Harding Newman, who sold it in 1890. (I'll explain the likely reason he decided to sell it in a later post.)

The abstemious Schutz
In 1776 at the age of nineteen Harding married seventeen-year-old Harriet Schutz, the daughter of Francis Schutz who was third cousin to Frederick, Prince of Wales. His family had come over from Hanover with George I but his chief claim to fame now is the portrait of him by William Hogarth, which portrays Schutz vomiting into his chamberpot while lying in bed nursing a monumental hangover. The portrait was allegedly commissioned by his new wife Susan Bacon, to remind him he must leave his debauched ways behind. Later his descendants had the painting reworked to replace the chamberpot with a more respectable newspaper.


'Francis Matthew Schutz in his bed'
 by William Hogarth

The vomit has now been restored and the painting is in the ownership of Norwich Museum and Art Gallery.

It was from the Schutz family that Richard Newman Harding inherited the estates of Black Callerton in Northumberland and Great Clacton in Essex.

In 1783 Richard Newman Harding took the name Newman in order to inherit from his grandfather, who had owned an estate at Great Nelmes near Hornchurch in Essex and other properties and thus formally became Richard Newman Harding Newman. In 1806 after the death of Harriet Schutz, Richard married Rosamond Bradish with whom he had two children before his own death in 1808 whereupon his eldest son, Thomas Harding Newman (b.1779) inherited the bulk of the estates and a share of the Blue Hole Plantation in Jamaica.

Col. Thomas Harding Newman married three times. His first wife was Harriet Cartwright, the daughter of John Cartwright of Ixworth and with her he had two sons, Thomas and Benjamin and a daughter, Harriet. After Harriet Cartwright's death in 1815, Thomas married Eliza Hall on 29 December 1817, and it is at this time that Colonel Austen is believed to have presented the portrait of Jane Austen to Eliza as a wedding gift. Thomas and Eliza went on to have at least three children: John, Eliza and Julia. Eliza Hall Newman died in 1831 at Exmouth, presumably at the home of her brother Thomas, who lived at Littleham, Exmouth for many years.

Thomas Harding Newman married his third wife, 58 year old Anna Maria Parry in 1840. Anna Maria was the daughter of the late Charles Henry Parry, the vicar of Speen, Berkshire and his wife Mary Ann née Shephard. Charles Parry had been ordained deacon in 1778 and became vicar of Speen two years later, succeeding his father-in-law Thomas Shephard who resigned his position. He held the post for eight years until his early death at the age of 31.

Anna Maria's mother, Mrs Mary Parry, owned land in Speen and in nearby Shaw cum Donnington. She had lived at Donnington Priory, once owned by the Cowslades, which passed to her under the will of John Cowslade but in later years she lived in Clifton with her daughter, Harriet Allen. Presumably, Anna Maria was also living with Harriet and her husband until her own marriage to Thomas Harding Newman, as they married in Clifton. A third sister, Catherine, had died in 1832.

From 1833, Mrs Parry's property in Speen was rented out to  James Edward Austen, Jane Austen's nephew. Two of his children were born in Speen, Spencer and Arthur Henry, and the Austens remained here until James Edward inherited nearby Scarlets at Hare Hatch from Mrs Leigh-Perrot in 1837 and added Leigh to his family name. Mrs Mary Parry died the same year. Her will refers to her property in Speen 'now in the occupation of the Reverend Mr Austin and others' which she leaves to her two surviving daughters Anna Maria Parry and Harriet Allen. When James Edward moved into Scarlets at the beginning of 1837, his mother Mary and sister Caroline moved into the Parry's house in Speen.

Speen, of course, has other connections to Jane Austen, through the inter-connected families of Lloyd, Fowle and Craven. The Fowles were at Kintbury, five miles down the road, while the Lloyd's aunt, Mrs Craven, was living at Speen Hill.

After their marriage, Thomas and Anna Maria Harding Newman lived initially at Northam, near Bideford in North Devon. They are recorded as being here on the 1841 census and in 1845 Thomas' son-in-law Thomas Allies refers to a visit to his wife's father at Bideford so he must presumably be still living in Devon at this date. But by 1851 they have moved to Anna Marie's birthplace for the 1851 census shows them living at Church Speen Lodge, Speen.

(It appears that the Essex house Nelmes was let to Thomas Walmesley and his family, who in turn let the house to his brother-in-law Henry Petre who lived there for six months in 1859 while his own house was being renovated. Walmesley's niece Lucy described the house as a 'curious old place with a ghost room'. It was also, apparently, teeming with rats.)

Speen Church

Thomas Harding Newman died in 1856 and when his will is proved he is referred to as 'Thomas Harding Newman formerly of Nelmes in the Parish of Hornchurch in the County of Essex but late of Speenhill in the County of Berks.'

In his will Thomas Harding Newman left his plate linen and horse and carriage to his wife. His eldest daughter received five hundred pounds, his three youngest children were left Woodspeen Farm and £5000 divided between them. The remainder of his considerable estates and property went to his eldest son, Rev Dr Thomas Harding Newman. Anna Maria Newman continued living at Church Speen until her own death in 1872 at the age of 90. In 1861 members of the Majendie family appear on the census as visitors staying with Anna Newman, who lived very close to the vicarage. They were relatives of Henry Majendie, the vicar of Speen from 1819 until 1870, who was a friend of James Edward Austen Leigh.

It was clearly not only Thomas Harding-Newman's second wife, Eliza Hall, who had connections with Jane Austen. His third wife, Anna Maria Parry, had connections to the Austens too.

Given these connections, it is likely that James Edward Austen-Leigh knew about the portrait of his aunt in the ownership of Thomas Harding Newman. Yet he chose not to use it in his own biography of Austen published in 1869. Why? My guess is that the reason is due to bad feeling between the Hampshire and the Kent Austens. James Edward's father James was the eldest son. The generally accepted system of passing money through the family in the eighteenth century was via the system of primogeniture whereby the eldest son would inherit the family wealth, often leaving the remaining siblings with comparatively little. Yet James Austen had been passed over. It was younger brother Edward who was adopted by the wealthy Knights and Edward who was the wealthy member of the family. James Austen, who often fretted over his finances, would have had to have been a saint not to feel some resentment of his younger brother's good fortune. I have long been of the opinion that the Austens were far from the close-knit family portrayed in the Memoir. Furthermore, on the Kent side, after the death of old Francis Austen, his son, Francis Motley Austen does not seem to have been particularly well disposed towards his poorer relations. Relations between the Austens living in Kent and those in Hampshire grew increasingly distant. There was certainly no co-operation from Edward Austen Knight's descendants with the Memoir and requests to use Jane's letters which were mainly in the possession of Fanny Knatchbull, Jane's niece, were steadfastly refused.

So, if he had known of this portrait, would James Edward have used a painting for his Memoir that had been commissioned by the wealthy Austens of Sevenoak and that had been given to someone outside the family rather than passed to Jane's closest relatives? Perhaps there was resentment about this too. It seems possible that if James Edward did know the whereabouts of the portrait he would be quite likely to ignore it in favour of an alternative image, to make the point that they were the custodians of Jane Austen's memory, not the relatives in Kent. 

In my next post I will look at Thomas Harding Newman's brother Benjamin who married into a family whose name will be familiar...









Sunday, 25 October 2015

Jane Austen and the Rice Portrait - Who was Eliza Hall?

The Rice Portrait
This article concerns the identity of Eliza Hall. *

The Rice Portrait is believed by its supporters to have been commissioned by Francis Austen of Sevenoaks, Jane's very wealthy great uncle. It is then thought to have been passed to his son, Francis Motley Austen and thereafter to the latter's second son, Colonel Thomas Austen, the first having predeceased his father. Thomas Austen inherited in 1815, but did not take possession of his father's house and contents until the death of his mother in the spring of 1817. Jane died in the July of that year.

The first documentary evidence of the portrait is a letter written by Rev. Dr Thomas Harding Newman in 1880. By this time he had become the owner of the portrait and according to him it had come into his family as a gift from Colonel Thomas Austen. The evidence is contained in a letter written by him and dated Dec 30 1880, addressed to Harding-Newman's friend Dr John Rouse Bloxam:


I should like to give another painting of Jane Austen, the novelist by Zoffany to her relative your neighbour Morland Rice. It is of a girl about 15 and came into my family the gift of Col Austen of Chippington [sic] to my mother-in-law, or rather stepmother, my father’s second wife; who was a great admirer of the novelist. I can remember Col. Austen visiting this place. Latterly when at Bramber I have failed to fall in with my old friend. I don’t think he can have forgotten me. I was at Oxford when he knocked his head against a post and ascertained that the post was the harder of the two.

Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman's step-mother, his father's second wife was Eliza Hall. She married Colonel Thomas Harding-Newman in December 1817 and there is speculation therefore that the portrait was a wedding gift from Colonel Thomas Austen. However there is no documentary evidence of this and we do not know with any certainty exactly when the portrait was given to Eliza Hall. Rev. Dr Harding-Newman was six years old when his father re-married and if he could recall Colonel Austen visiting 'this place' ie. the family home of Nelmes in Essex, these visits may well have taken place some time after their marriage. The portrait may have been given to Eliza Hall at any time before her death in 1831. 

But who was Eliza Hall and why might Colonel Austen have felt it appropriate to give her a portrait of Jane Austen? As far as I know, there has been no research published into her identity and yet her family connections are significant.

Baptism entry for Elizabeth Ann Hall

Eliza, or more properly, Elizabeth Ann Hall, was born at Egham, Surrey on March 4, 1789 to Thomas Hall (b.1757) and his wife Elizabeth née Humffreys (b.1760).

Thomas Hall's father, Thomas Kirkpatrick Hall (b.1725) owned and operated several major sugar plantations in Jamaica and 'owned' large numbers of slaves to work those plantations; Thomas Hall's elder brother Hugh Kirkpatrick Hall of Holly Bush, Derbyshire was the main beneficiary of these plantations when their father died in 1772. The Hall family records are now held at the University of California, San Diego, and there is a lot more information about the history of the Hall family's extensive dealings in Jamaica HERE which the university has helpfully made available to download.

Thomas Hall married Miss Elizabeth Humffreys at Ludlow on 3 December 1787. Elizabeth was the daughter of the late William Humffreys of Llwyn, Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire, who had died in 1772, and his wife Ann Lloyd. A copy of William Humffrey's will is in the Hawley archive in Lincolnshire. (We'll see later why it ended up in the Hawley archives.)

After Eliza Hall's birth in 1789, Thomas and Elizabeth Hall went on to have five more children - twins Sophia and Thomas in 1790, William in 1791, Charles in 1793 and the last, George, was born in 1794. There were no more children and, while I have so far been unable to establish the date of Elizabeth Hall née Humffreys' death, it is possible that she died  either in childbirth or soon after George was born. The Rice family tradition is that Eliza Hall lost her mother when she was relatively young and I have found nothing to contradict this.

When Eliza Hall married Colonel Thomas Harding Newman on 29 December 1817, both Eliza and her father Thomas Hall's address on the marriage settlement is given as Cumberland Street, Portland Square, London. You can view a copy of the Epitome of the Settlement HERE.



Marriage entry for Eliza Hall and Thomas Harding Newman

Eliza and Thomas Harding Newman lived at the Newman family home of Nelmes, near Hornchurch in Essex. (The house was demolished in 1967.) They had three children, John Henry Newman, Eliza Hall Newman and Julia Harding Newman. Thomas Harding Newman also had three children from his first marriage to Harriet Cartwright, who had died in 1815, they were Thomas Harding Newman, Benjamin Harding Newman and Harriet Newman.

So how might Eliza Hall have known Jane Austen? Well, it transpires that she was closely related to the Hawleys of Leybourne Grange, near Maidstone in Kent. The Hawleys were friends of Jane and are mentioned in her letters and they in turn were very closely connected through marriage with another family very close to Jane Austen - the Bridges of Goodnestone Park.

Eliza Hall's aunt, her mother's eldest sister Ann Humffreys, had married barrister and High Sheriff of Kent, Sir Henry Hawley of Leybourne Grange, Kent and 4 Harley Street, London, at Ludlow in 1785. Henry Hawley was a widower. His first wife, Dorothy née Ashwood, had died in 1783, leaving him with four young children: Henry 7, Dorothy Elizabeth 5, Harriott 3 and baby Charlotte, who was just nineteen months old when their mother died. Ann Humffrey must have therefore acted as a surrogate mother to her four young step-children as well as bearing four of her own - Frances, James, Eliza and Louisa Hawley.

The older Hawley children were contemporaries of Jane Austen and her siblings and were very well known to Jane. The eldest child, Henry, born in 1776, was an acquaintance of Jane's brother Edward Austen (who later changed his name to Edward Knight). Deirdre Le Faye, in her incredibly detailed A Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family, has noted some of Henry Hawley's movements. In June 1802, for example, she notes that Mr Hawley, Mr Austen [Edward Austen Knight presumably] and a Mr Douce paid for a joint passport to travel to Paris, they were recommended by Sir Henry Hawley.

All three daughters of Henry Hawley from his first marriage are mentioned by Jane Austen in her letters: 'We are to meet a party from Goodnestone, Lady B [Lady Bridges née Dorothy Hawley], Miss Hawley [Harriott Hawley] and Lucy Foote' Jane reported to Cassandra in her letter of 3 November 1813. Meanwhile, Mrs J Bridges [Charlotte Hawley] is mentioned in the list of opinions of Emma which Jane  recorded. She preferred it to all the others according to Jane.

The Bridges family, baronets of Goodnestone Park, Kent, were intimately connected with the Austens and are also mentioned frequently in Jane's letters. Dorothy Hawley married William Brook Bridges in 1809  and later became Lady Bridges and Charlotte Hawley married John Brooke Bridges in 1810. John Bridges died just two year's later, and must have been unwell for some time, for in May 1811 Jane wrote to Cassandra: 'Poor John Bridges! we are very sorry for his situation and for the distress of the family. Lady B. is severely tried. And our own dear brother suffers a great deal, I dare say, on the occasion.' William and John Bridges' sister, Elizabeth, married Jane's brother Edward Austen in 1791 and had eleven children, before dying in 1808, shortly after the birth of the last.

There is also speculation that another son of the Bridges family, Reverend Edward Brook Bridges may have proposed to Jane, speculation used in the excellent screenplay Miss Austen Regrets. She certainly remarked upon the attention he was giving her. 'It is impossible to do justice to the hospitality of his attentions towards me; he made a point of ordering toasted cheese for supper entirely on my account,' Jane wrote to Cassandra in 1805. It is a remark Jane makes in a letter to Cassandra in 1808 which has led to speculation that Edward's keenness to make toasted cheese may have led to a more serious proposal. 'I wish you may be able to accept Lady Bridges's invitation, tho' I could not her son Edward's,' she says, although for all we know, this could have been nothing more than an invitation to supper. But Edward does get mentioned frequently in Jane's letters. When she hears of his engagement, which was 'quite news', she says, 'I wish him happy with all my heart.'

Jane Austen knew Sir Henry Hawley and his wife Ann who were married for over forty years and living in London and in Leybourne, Kent, just 30 miles or so from Jane's brother Edward Austen Knight's estate at Godmersham Park. It is very possible that Jane Austen also met their niece Eliza Hall, although there is no evidence that she did in the letters that we have. (Only about 160 of Jane's letters survive however, and there are gaps of years where we have no letters at all.)

Sir Henry Hawley died in 1826, his wife Ann Hawley née Humffreys died three years later. Henry Hawley's daughter Dorothy Hawley (Lady Bridges) died in 1816 but his second daughter, Charlotte, lived until 1847. She re-married in 1823. Her second husband was Thomas Gardiner Bramston of Skreens, which was an estate not far from her cousin Eliza's home of Nelmes. He died suddenly in 1831, just a few months after becoming MP for Essex. The 1841 census shows Charlotte Bramston née Hawley at Springfield Lyons, Chelmsford, together with her sister Harriott Hawley and step-sister Eliza Hawley.

1841 census
Henry and Ann Hawley were alive long enough to see the portrait Colonel Austen had given to their niece, as were Eliza Hall's cousins Charlotte, Harriott and Eliza Hawley.

Eliza Hall's family connections mean that the theory suggested by Deirdre Le Faye now seems  unlikely. She believes the portrait to be of Mary Anne Campion, the daughter of Colonel Thomas Austen's sister Jane. The Colonel was hardly likely to confuse his niece with his cousin, but the suggestion is that he gave the portrait to Eliza Hall, knowing it was not a portrait of the novelist, but passed it off as such to please Eliza, taking the 'proverbial view that a nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse.' Leaving aside the vexed question of why Colonel Austen would do such a thing (and presumably include his wife in the deception), one of Eliza Hall's relatives would surely have pointed out that it was not Jane Austen!

Eliza and her father lived at Cumberland Street (now known as Great Cumberland Place) north of Marble Arch, while her aunt Ann Hawley lived  at Harley Street, just the other side of Portman Square. Hardly a great distance apart! To imagine that no-one in Eliza Hall's circle knew Jane Austen, we now know, is impossible. Her aunt, uncle and her cousins knew her well, and there is a good chance that Eliza Hall had met Jane Austen too.

Eliza was reported by The Gentleman's Magazine to have died at Exmouth in  August 1831, she was presumably at the home of her brother Thomas who lived at nearby Littleham. She was aged 42. In 1840 her husband married his third wife, Anna Maria Parry, at Clifton, Bristol. She was the daughter of the late Charles Parry, Vicar of Speen. Thomas Harding Newman lived until 1856 after which his eldest son, Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding Newman inherited Nelmes and its surrounding lands which at that time constituted some 265 acres, along with the portrait of Jane Austen which had belonged to his step-mother.

Eliza Harding Newman née Hall was not just an admirer of Jane Austen, she may well have known her personally, and if she had not, she was extremely well connected - and related - to people who knew Jane well. When we see how closely she was connected to Jane Austen's circle the decision of Colonel Austen to give Eliza Hall the portrait of Jane Austen now makes perfect sense.



*In the light of helpful feedback since this article was first published I have since updated the text of the opening paragraphs of this article to explain more clearly the known facts about how the portrait came into the ownership of the Harding-Newman family






Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Rice portrait of Jane Austen - a case of the wrong Legg? - part two

The 'Rice' Portrait
This is the second of a two part post about the 'Rice Portrait' of Jane Austen painted when she was about 12 years old. The first part can be found HERE. For more information on the Rice portrait please go to the official website HERE.

To date the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) has not accepted that the portrait is of Jane Austen. A major (indeed perhaps now the only) substantial component of the argument against it being of Austen is a stamp on the reverse of the portrait placed there by the supplier of the linen canvas. The NPG  attribute this stamp to a certain William Legg born in Reading in 1760 and who was not trading in London until around 1800. The argument of the NPG therefore is that the portrait must date from the early nineteenth century when Austen would have been in her twenties.

In my previous post I posited that the NPG may have been looking at the wrong Legg and suggested a possible alternative, one William Daniel Legg, who could have been trading in linen in the late eighteenth century. In this post I want to explain why the coincidence of two William Leggs supplying linen from the same area of London, High Holborn, is not as unlikely as it might seem, and in fact is not a coincidence at all. The story involves four men of a similar age, all merchants and all living in London in the 1780's who are linked by trade and by religion. They are: Samuel Legg, James Poole, Thomas Walters and William Daniel Legg.

Samuel Legg
Born in 1754, Samuel Legg was the cousin of William Legg of Reading. (b.1760). His father John was a member of the Congregationalist or Independent Church and Samuel and his brothers and sisters were baptised at the Independent Meeting House in Broad Street, Reading, a non-conformist chapel (now occupied by Waterstones). He was apprenticed for 7 years to Samuel Walker, citizen and draper of London and later took over his business at 51 Snow Hill, just to the east of Holborn perhaps in partnership with a relative, possibly an uncle (another William Legg) who had married Samuel Walker's daughter Elizabeth.

In 1781 Samuel married Elizabeth Gill and the couple had two children, Jabez and Elizabeth Legg. Jabez was baptised at the Independent Chapel on Camomile Street where the pastor was John Reynolds. Both Samuel and his son Jabez were active members of the Congregationalist church while his daughter Elizabeth married William Chapman, a Congregationalist pastor at Greenwich. Directories list Samuel Legg as upholsterer/upholder/hardware and later he and Jabez also maintained a successful business as undertakers, a common combination in eighteenth century England, trading from Fleet Street and later from 2 Knightrider Street. Samuel lived until the age of 92 and was buried on the same day as his sister Mary Westbrook, six years his junior, at Bunhill Fields on 14 August 1846. He named as one of his executors his friend Joseph East of Newington Place in Surrey. You can read more about Samuel and Jabez Legg here.


James Poole
James Poole was the son of a Buckinghamshire farmer who retired to Dinton near Aylesbury and whose land James Poole inherited. His wife Sarah was born around 1747.  Like Samuel Legg, James Poole was a member of the Congregationalist Church. His sister Hannah Poole married John Griffin, the son of a Wooburn paper manufacturer and in 1794 the couple moved to Portsea in Hampshire where Griffin took up a post as Congregationalist minister of Orange Street Chapel and later their sons, John and James also both became Ministers. Another of James Poole's sisters, Sarah, married John Bristow from Great Marlow at Wooburn in 1786 and their son John also became a Congregationalist Minister, at Poole in Dorset. Meanwhile James' sister Mary Poole married William East, another paper manufacturer from Wooburn in 1784. William and Mary's son, Joseph East (mentioned above), was baptised in 1790 at Bethel Chapel in Wooburn. The 1851 census shows him to be a printer and living at Newington Place, Surrey, with his wife Bethiah from Piccadilly, Middlesex.

James Poole traded as an artists colour man at 163 High Holborn from at least 1785 and supplied many of the leading artists of the day including Joshua Reynolds and George Romney (see here), both close friends of Ozias Humphry, the artist the Rice family believe is responsible for painting the Austen portrait in about 1788. (Incidentally, an unhappy incident occurred in November 1796 when Poole was required to testify at the trial of one of his employees, John Bannister, who apparently in the evenings had a more nefarious occupation as highwayman. Bannister was sentenced to death for armed robbery and executed outside Newgate prison on 1 February 1797.) James Poole was buried at Bethel Independent Chapel in Wooburn on 10 July 1801. His brother-in-law, William East, Joseph East's father, is named as an executor of his will. James Poole was survived by his wife who died at Stratford-on-Avon in 1836.

Thomas Walters
Thomas Walters was born in Portsea, the son of Thomas Walters, an officer at Portsmouth Dockyard and his wife Ann Vodin. He was baptised at St Mary's, Portsea, on 12 December 1756. He came up to London and was initially apprenticed in the ship chandler's trade. In 1780 he married Anne Thompson, daughter of Captain John Thompson, 1st Commander of H M Transports, who later established a successful rope making trade in Shadwell. Thomas and Anna Walters were members of the Congregationalist church and all five of their children were baptised at Old Gravel Lane Chapel in Wapping. Thomas Walters was made a livery member of the Merchant Taylor's Company in 1783 and ran a successful business at 201/202 New Crane, Shadwell. He was in partnership with a relative by marriage, George Seale, supplying ships biscuits and Irish goods. Kent's Directory for 1791 lists him as supplying sail cloth and Irish provisions and textiles. Sail cloth was the same cloth that artists used for canvas. Like James Poole and Samuel Legg then, Thomas Walters was a member of the Congregationalist church, and was importing linen, the same cloth which James Poole sold to artists. The East London History Society has written about Thomas Walters and his business links here.

One of Thomas Walter's daughters married Benjamin Lara of Portsea, a physician to the naval fleet, while a son, Charles became an engineer in Sussex. Thomas Walter's eldest son, John, was apprenticed to his father in 1796 but the following year, with the agreement of all parties, John was turned over to William Daniel Legg for the remainder of his apprenticeship. The most likely reason was that the 15 year-old John had expressed an interest in architecture, a field in which William Daniel Legg had already experienced considerable success. John Walters went on to to design many buildings including St Paul's Church in Shadwell and also patented a new design for a ship's brace to be used in the course of a ship's construction. In 1803 he married Ann I'Anson, sister of architect Edward I'Anson (1775-1853) but he died at Brighton before the age of 40, apparently from chronic overwork.

William Daniel Legg
I covered W D Legg extensively in my last post. Baptised in St Sepulchre, he was apprenticed to a linen draper based in Cornhill and later found success as an architect in Stamford. His only apprentice was John Walters, son of Wapping and Shadwell trader Thomas Walters. He probably is the William Legg listed at Coleman Street in 1774 and may be the William Legg listed at trading at Pelican Stairs in Wapping from 1785 as a dealer in ship stores (marine), not far from Thomas Walter's premises and with a similar trade.

I believe there is a strong possibility these four men knew each other. Samuel Legg and James Poole were both Congregationalists, and Samuel Legg names as his executor the son of James Poole's brother-in-law, William East, himself named as one of James Poole's executors. Thomas Walters and his wife, like Samuel Legg and James Poole, were of the Congregationalist church - and like James Poole also had connections with Portsea. Thomas Walters was importing linen into London and James Poole was selling it to artists. Meanwhile William Daniel Legg - possibly a relative of Samuel Legg although I have not yet found a link - clearly knew Thomas Walters as he was master to his son, John.

When James Poole died in 1801, William Legg (b.1760) was trading in Reading with his brother John as a painter, glazier and coach maker, having taken over the business from their father George. Then in 1801 one or both of the brothers (more likely both) took over James Poole's business as an artist's colourman at 163 High Holborn. Surely this is no coincidence. No doubt Samuel Legg, the brothers' cousin and friend (as he is later described in William Legg's will) helped facilitate the takeover of the business.

Samuel Legg and James Poole were linked by common friendships, trade and the Congregationalist church. Surely it is not impossible that either William Daniel Legg or another William Legg in the family from Reading, traded with James Poole during his tenure in High Holborn during the 1780s and placed his stamp on the linen.



Friday, 10 April 2015

Rice portrait of Jane Austen - A case of the wrong Legg?

The 'Rice' Portrait
In previous posts I have been looking at the Byrne portrait of Jane Austen but in this one I thought I would share some research I have carried out into what is now known as the Rice Portrait – once erroneously known as the “Zoffany Portrait” - believed by its owners to be a portrait of Jane Austen when she was about 12 or 13, painted by Ozias Humphry. 

There is plenty of information about the on the Rice portrait’s website here. The portrait has a long and tortured history and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) no longer accept that the portrait is of Jane Austen or indeed that it is by Ozias Humphry.

One of their principal objections relates to a linen stamp found on the back of the portrait. Duty was payable on linen in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and each piece of cloth was required to be stamped with the supplier’s name and place of abode. Relining has revealed one such stamp on the back of the Rice portrait for William Legg of High Holborn. It is known that there was an artist’s colourman named William Legg who hailed from Reading and who traded from High Holborn for a short period at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He appears in Kent’s Annual London Directory for the years 1803-1806 and in Holden’s Triennial Directory and the Post Office London Directory for 1805. However, William Legg was known to be trading in Reading prior to 1801 in partnership with his brother John as a coach maker, painter and glazier. The NPG have argued that the portrait therefore cannot be of Jane Austen when she was 12 or 13 as the earliest date W. Legg was in Holborn was 1801 when she was aged 25. Furthermore Ozias Humphry stopped painting when he went blind in 1797 so if William Legg was the linen supplier then the portrait cannot be painted by Ozias Humphry. 

The evidence of the linen stamp is therefore one of the main objections raised by the NPG to the portrait being painted prior to 1800. 


But is it possible that this is a case of mistaken identity? Could there possibly have been TWO William Leggs supplying linen from High Holborn, one at an earlier date to the other? 


There are two known stamps for William Legg from Reading – but they are not exactly the same as the one on the Rice portrait. They read: W & J Legg/High Holborn/LINEN. 


But the stamp on the Rice Portrait reads: 

Wm Legg High Holbourn 1 Linen 


The stamp on the reverse of the Rice portrait

The Rice portrait stamp has no ‘J’ and also spells Holborn with a ‘u’, an earlier form of the name. 


So is there any evidence for another William Legg who might have traded in linen from the High Holborn area during the late 1780s? I have discovered one man who may have done so, a certain William Daniel Legg. 

William Daniel Legg was born in 1743 and baptised at St Sepulchre, Newgate Street, Holborn, London. His parents were Thomas and Mary Legg. A Thomas Legg married a Mary Thursby at St Sepulchre on 19 February 1739, probably William’s father and mother. Thomas Legg was a printer, stationer and carpenter from Deptford. In 1755, when he was fourteen years old, William Daniel Legg was apprenticed for seven years to John Norris of the Haberdasher’s Company. Norris is variously described in the records as a haberdasher and as a joiner. (Merchants in the eighteenth century were commonly pluralists utilising a variety of skills.) John Norris owned property at Cherry Tree Alley, Bunhill Row in London and traded as a ‘ready made linen draper’ at Cornhill, but his property was sold when he went bankrupt in December 1785. 


William Daniel Legg had a brother, Thomas John Motley (sometimes Mottley) Legg, born in 1745. Motley is not a particularly common name. It also happens to be the name of the first wife of Jane Austen’s great uncle Francis Austen, the man responsible for commissioning the portrait. Anne Motley was the daughter of Thomas Motley of Beckenham, Kent . It is possible that Thomas Legg senior had a friend named either Thomas or John Motley and named his son after him. Naming a child after a valued friend or patron was common practice. It is also worth noting that Thomas Legg later mentioned in his will some property in Beckenham Lane, Bromley, not far from Thomas Motley’s Beckenham estate. This may, of course, be nothing but coincidence. Thomas John Motley Legg was apprenticed in 1760 to the printer Halhed Garland. Garland had himself been apprenticed to the printer turned novelist Samuel Richardson who was so greatly admired by Jane Austen. As a young girl Jane may have borrowed Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison from Francis Austen’s second wife Jane (born Chadwick, later Lennard). 


Thomas John Motley Legg died suddenly in 1778. His father Thomas Legg was now living at Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, Mayfair in the parish of St George Hanover Square where he was apparently  involved in the management of Mount Street Workhouse, which with a capacity for up to 700 paupers was one of the largest in the country. He, along with Alexander Grant of Mount Street and Robert Grant of White Rose Court, Coleman Street, London, are named in a document of the same date in which Thomas Legg applied for administration of his son’s property. Thomas John Motley Legg was buried in the family vault at St Paul’s, Deptford. 


Like John Norris, William Daniel Legg is variously described as a haberdasher and joiner. He also had an interest in architecture, which at that time required no formal qualifications or training. He apparently obtained the patronage of Brownlow Cecil, the 9th Earl of Exeter and there are several building projects at the Earl’s estate at Burghley and at nearby Stamford attributed to him dating from the 1780’s onwards. His father’s will, written in 1790, describes him as ‘William Daniel Legg of Stamford in the county of Lincoln surveyor and architect’. (The Stamford connection may be as a result of relations of his mother Mary Thursby, the name has connections with Stamford. John Harvey Thursby was MP for Stamford from 1754 until 1761.) 


William also continued to trade in London as on 17 June 1797 he temporarily took over the apprenticeship of John Walters from the latter’s father, Thomas Walters a prosperous merchant in Shadwell, East London, who traded in ship’s biscuits, Irish provisions and sail cloth. (Sail cloth was made from the same or similar linen canvas as that used by artists for picture cloth. For more information on picture cloths see the National Portrait Gallery’s website.) 


William Daniel Legg died in 1806 at Stamford and like his brother was buried in the family vault at St Paul’s, Deptford. His father Thomas Legg had died five years earlier in 1801. William apparently did not marry or have children and I have not yet traced a will for him. But on 23 May 1806 the Stamford Mercury advertised an auction of his possessions to take place on 26 May 1806 and for five following days, which included over 400 books, a similar number of prints and ‘too great a variety of other valuable and good furniture to insert in an advertisement.’ 


Could William Daniel Legg have traded out of High Holborn in the 1780s? It is possible. His connections and origins were in the area and the streets of Holborn and High Holborn were one of the main trading areas for drapers in the late eighteenth century; the National Archives hold records for dozens of linen drapers trading here at the time. He was apprenticed for seven years by a haberdasher who traded just down the road at Cornhill and, despite his interests in Stamford, William Daniel Legg continued trading in London. In my next post I will look at William Daniel Legg’s trading connections and why two William Leggs supplying linen from High Holborn may not be a coincidence at all.