Eye to Eye: Portraits from RAMM's Fine Art Collection

A series of famous figures from Exeter, opening a window into the city's past

By Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

John Cooke, Captain of the Exeter Javelin Men (1811/1837) by Anonymous Local schoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

This selection of portraits were curated for a research project in 2006. They represent a series of Exeter's past people from merchants such as Lawrence Atwell to musicians, booksellers and wrestlers with some paintings dating back to as early as the 14th century opening a window onto the city's past.

Edward Adams, Esq of Crediton (1856) by William WidgeryRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The Adams family of Crediton operated a tannery in the town from 1792 to 1964. One of four tanneries in the town, it was closely connected to the related currying trade, and was a key supplier of leather to local bootmakers and saddlers.

Lawrence Atwill (also Atwell), London merchant and Exeter benefactor (1588) by Anonymous English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

This portrait of Lawrence Atwill, a successful London skinner who was born in Exeter, commemorates his benefaction to his native city. When he died in 1588 he left funds to be invested in land, the income from which was intended to support the employment of the poor in Exeter.

Miss Adeline Ayles, aged about 5 (1885/1886) by Philip Tennyson ColeRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Charles Ayles, the children’s father was born at Sturminster Marshall in Dorset, where his father, Henry Ayles, ran a bakery and grocery shop. As a youth Charles worked as a ‘Shopman’ in the family business (1861 census). By 1871 he had moved to London as a commercial traveller, and was then boarding with Henry Reeves, a grocer in Mile End. Shortly afterwards he married Louisa Spicer.

In 1891 Adeline Ayles was 8, the sixth eldest of the Ayles children.

Miss Ethel Ayles, aged about 8 (1885/1886) by Philip Tennyson ColeRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The second of seven daughters. Her mother and Father were Charles Ayles, a “Provisional Merchant” and Louise Ayles, the daughter of an accountant. She is thought to be around 13 years of age here.

Miss Louisa Ayles, aged about 14 (1885/1886) by Philip Tennyson ColeRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

In 1891 Louisa Ayles was 16, the eldest of the Ayles children.

Commander Robert, R. Bastin (1760/1811) by Anonymous English School.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Robert Bastin was born on 5 August, 1780 and was the fourth son of John Bastin of
Tidwell, East Budleigh, Devon.

Grosvenor Bedford and family (1747/1748) by Francis HaymanRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The painting depicts Grosvenor Bedford (1708-1771) resting his right arm on a chair, his wife, Jane Bedford nee Grosvenor (1712-1759) who was his first cousin, is seated and on the right is his eldest son and heir, Charles, holding a riding whip. Bell dates the Exeter painting c.1747-8, a date that is consistent with the likely age of Charles.

William Mineard Bennett, miniature painter (1815) by Self-portraitRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

William was apprenticed to a local engraver, Abraham Ezekial, but according to the DNB authors, Bennett “chose miniature painting rather than engraving as his profession and moved to London.” Here he studied under Sir Thomas Lawrence, but later set up his own business as a miniature painter and portrait painter in oil. A print version of his portrait of James Leigh Hunt was published in 1805 when Bennett was seventeen and further engravings followed in 1807 of Venanzio Rauzzini, and a self-portrait in 1808. At the same time Bennett was pursuing his interest in music and the theatre. He made several appearances at public concerts in Bath as well as publishing some of his musical compositions.

William Mineard Bennett, miniature painter (1815) by Self-portraitRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Bennett exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1812, 1813, 1815, 1816, and again in 1834 and 1835. In Paris he became a protégé of Louis-Phillipe and the Duc de Berri and was decorated by Louis XVIII.

Richard Bird, solicitor (1815/1830) by (?Arthur) Dudley StallardRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Richard Bird was born at Chulmleigh, Devon, on 8 February 1802. He became a solicitor and practised in Calcutta in the late 1830s until his death in India on 2 July 1842. His wife, Sarah Edwards, had died eight years earlier and was buried in the Chowringhee burying ground in Calcutta where a tomb had been erected. His only child, Emblyn Eliza, had returned to England to be brought up. In his will, written in Calcutta at the end of December 1841, he made financial provision for his daughter, as well as leaving her specific heirlooms connected with her late mother.

Mrs Sarah Bird (1835) by Attributed to PybusRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Emblyn Eliza Bird married Frederick Stallard, a barrister with Worcester origins. They lived in the St. Pancras area of London and between 1855 and 1859 had three children – Frederick Dewsnap (born c.1855), Emblyn Sarah (born c.1857), and Arthur Dudley (born c.1859). Emblyn, the mother, died in 1861 at Worcester. Her husband later remarried and by the second marriage had another six children.

Henry Blackall, Mayor of Exeter (1820/1821) by John HarrisRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Blackall, whose family had a long ancestry in the city. Henry was christened in Saint
Paul’s Church, Exeter on 23 September 1769. He was a Fellow of Emmanuel
College, Cambridge and was admitted a Freeman of the City of Exeter at the age of forty in 1809. He was three times Mayor of Exeter (1819, 1827 and 1832), having previously held the office of High Sheriff in 1817.

Mrs Rachel Bowditch, of Taunton (1821) by John PonsfordRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Rachel Bowditch, the sitter in Ponsford’s portrait was born Rachel Pile, the third child of Robert and Mary Pile of Cheddon Fitzpaine, Somerset. Her baptism was recorded there 12 November 1756. In 1779 she married Samuel Bowditch of Taunto, by whom she had four children (Rachel, Hannah, James and Betty). We do not know whether Samuel started the pawnbroking business, but when Rachel retired in 1823 she dated the start of her involvement from 1783.

Andrew Brice (previously thought to be) (1827) by S. WetherelRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

When this portrait was presented to RAMM it was thought to represent Andrew Brice, the celebrated printer. However, Andrew Brice, the Exeter printer, lived from 1692 to 1773 and this portrait, which shows the sitter with his right arm over a distinctly Regency chair, is securely dated 1827. Comparison between the RAMM drawing and the contemporary engravings of Brice in the collection of the West Country Studies Library shows there is no connection.

Philippa Brown, (nee Musgrave), wife of Thomas Brown (1720) by William GandyRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Philippa Brown was the daughter of Dr William Musgrave, the Exeter physician and antiquary (for whom see the separate entry) and his wife Philippa (nee Speke). Her exact date of birth has not been established but it is thought to have been sometime during 1699. On 25 October 1720 she married Thomas Brown in Exeter Cathedral.
Her father died within a year leaving her £1500 and a farm at Cullompton, but since his estate was heavily in debt the value of this bequest may not have been realised. Fortunately, Philippa’s recent marriage to Thomas Brown was to bring her financial security.

Thomas Brown (1720) by William GandyRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Thomas Brown, the son of Charles and Susanna Brown, was born in 1691. He married
Philippa Musgrave in Exeter cathedral in 1720, the same year that the pair of portraits by William Gandy of the newlywed couple was commissioned. Five years later Thomas Brown inherited substantial estates in Devon and Ireland from his godfather, the lawyer Sir Henry Langford (c.1654-1725).

Mrs Browne (1580/1600) by Anonymous English School,Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

These paintings (this and the next), together with two slightly later portraits of a lady and a gentleman, were presented by Mrs Mostyn, whose husband was a descendant of the Browne Mostyn family of Oxfordshire. The Browne Mostyns lived at Kiddington Hall, north of Woodstock and the main Browne line lived at Cowdray Park, Sussex. After the Reformation they adhered to the Catholic faith and one of the family, Sir Anthony Browne, Viscount Montagu, was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot.

Lady Browne (1580/1600) by Anonymous English School,Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Lady Browne is clothed as she probably would have been when attending at court. Her standing collar and cuffs of fine lace, sumptuously embroidered bodice, abundant pearls, and jewellery reflect the family's considerable wealth and stature.

Thomas Camble, of the West of England Fire Brigade (1860/1880) by Anonymous English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The identification of the sitter as Thomas Gamble rests on the wording of a plaque attached to the centre of the frame. It reads: “Mr Thomas Gamble West of England Fire Brigade, Exeter 1860-70 presented by Mr W C Loaring”. It appears that this plaque was applied when the portrait was given to the Norwich Union collection for their Exeter office.

John Campion, secretary to the City Chamber (1780/1790) by Anonymous English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

According to the inscription on the back of the painting John Campion (1742-1822) was the son of William and Elizabeth Campion of Exeter (1). His parents are probably the William Campion and Elizabeth Escott who were married in 1737 in St. Paul’s
Church Exeter (2). John Campion was a scrivener i.e. a legal clerk, secretary or copyist. In 1768 he was admitted a Freeman of the City of Exeter, and was described as “John Campion, scrivener, apprentice of Daniel Pring, gent.”

Abraham Cann, champion wrestler (1846/1850) by Attributed to Henry Caunter of Ashburton,Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Cann is shown in the foreground, dressed as a wrestler with the Farnese “Hercules” statue in the background on a plinth which bears an image of a wrestling match. On the left hand side is Cann’s hat, partly obscured by a scarf. Cann wears a sleeved jacket over his bare chest, breeches, gaiters and strong shoes or boots.

Master Carew (about 1790) by Richard CoswayRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The Carew family has a long ancestry. In Wales the Pembrokeshire line can be traced back to the Carews of Carew Castle. In the South West the Carews have also been long established with branches at Bickleigh, Lynham, Luppitt and Haccombe in Devon, Crowcombe in Somerset and Antony in Cornwall. The challenge is trying to identify to which branch the sitter, Master Carew, is related. It is also unclear whether the painting’s title has been used in the legal sense referring to the male apparent or presumptive to a title or peerage, a use that is better known historically in Scotland. If it does then it simplifies the search for a suitable candidate.

John Burridge Cholwich (1776) by Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

John Burridge Cholwich, squire of Farringdon in Devon, was born c.1752. He was the son of John Cholwich, who died when his son was a minor. His grandfather, also called John, died in 1767 when John Burridge was fifteen years old, leaving him the Farringdon estate. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford. In February 1777 John Burridge Cholwich married Frances, daughter of Sir John Duntze, Bart., M.P. for Tiverton.

Mrs Cleeve (1907) by Francis H. NewberyRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

This portrait Mrs Cleeve was presented to RAMM by Francis Newbery when he was Director of the Glasgow School of Art. It is inscribed in the artist’s hand on the back of the canvas “A Devonian, A Present to his County from the Artist September 1916.”

Mr John Commin, salter and cheesemonger of Exeter (1820/1830) by James TremlettRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

John Commin was the son of John and Jane Commin of Moretonhampstead where he was born on 8 March 1774. His parents were members of the Cross or Presbyterian New Meeting in the town. On 4 December 1798 he married Rose (or Rosa) Pollard at Holy Trinity Church, Exeter. Described in his obituary as “for many years a respectable tradesman” in Exeter, John Commin was a salter and cheesemonger with premises in North Street.

John Cooke, Captain of the Exeter Javelin Men (1811/1837) by Anonymous Local schoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The principal sources for any study of this sitter, popularly known as the loyal or honest saddler of Exeter, are John Cooke’s autobiography published in 1819 and its supplement of 1830. Because Cooke was an eccentric self-publicist another important source of information is the large number of advertisements which he placed in the local press together with a number of his broadsides, pamphlets, and other publications these provide the basis for the outline of his life and influence in Exeter.

Jane Cousins (1852) by Thomas MogfordRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

This portrait is of Jane Cousins, a sister of the celebrated and highly successful Victorian mezzotint engraver Samuel Cousins (1801-1887). Their parents, John Cousins and Mary South, were married in Saint Edmunds Church, Exeter in 1798. His father was described in a late nineteenth-century memoir of Cousins as “a highly respectable tradesman of Exeter.” John and Mary Cousins had a large family of five sons and four daughters. Of these, Samuel, the artist, was the second eldest and was born in 1801. The subject of Mogford’s portrait, Jane Cousins, was born twenty years later in 1821.

Richard Crosse, miniture painter (1765) by Self-portraitRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Richard Crosse, the son of John and Mary Crosse, was born at Knowle, near Cullompton, on 24 April 1742. He was born deaf and mute. His skills as a miniature painter were soon recognised and in the late 1750s he moved to London. Here he took lessons at William Shipley’s new drawing school, the first such drawing school in London, where his fellow pupils included Richard Cosway and John Smart.

John Dinham, jeweller, grocerand philanthropist of Exeter (1845/1855) by Thomas MogfordRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

John Dinham was born on 5 August 1788 at Kenton where his parents, Thomas and Sarah Dinham were known as “thrifty and respectable inhabitants of the village”. Sarah Dinham managed a small village shop while her husband was farm bailiff or steward to Powderham Castle. John was educated at Mr Bond’s school at Chudleigh. At fourteen he left school and was apprenticed to Mr Tucker who ran a well-known family grocer’s business in Exeter High Street.

Hugh Downman (1796) by Attributed to John Downman, ARARoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Hugh Downman was born at Alphington on 7 February 1740. He was the son of Hugh and Anne Downman, and cousin of the artist John Downman, ARA. He attended Exeter Free Grammar School and graduated from Balliol College, Oxford in 1763. Having trained as a priest, he then changed career and pursued medicine at both Edinburgh and Cambridge.

Lady Maria Eardley, wife of Sampson Gideon, Baron Eardley (1790/1795) by Richard Cosway R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Maria Marow Eardley Wilmot, daughter of Sir John Eardley Wilmot (1710-92) Chief Justice of Common Pleas, married Sir Sampson Gideon in 1766. He had been created a baronet in 1759 at the age of thirteen and three years later had inherited a fortune from his father, Sampson Gideon, senior. In 1789 Sir Sampson Gideon assumed the surname of Eardley and the same year he was created Baron Eardley of Ireland.

Elizabeth Flaye, Exeter benefactress (1630) by Anonymous English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Elizabeth Flaye was born Elizabeth Spicer in 1587. There has been much confusion over the identity of her father, who has been variously given as Nicholas or William Spicer, Exeter merchants. It can now be proved that her parents were Christopher and Elizabeth Spicer. Her brother was Nicholas Spicer (1581-1647).

Charles John Follett (1875) by J. Edgar WilliamsRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Charles Follett was the son of John Follett, a successful timber merchant of Mount Wear House, Countess Wear, Exeter, and the brother of Sir William Webb Follett. Charles was born in 1838 and studied at St. John’s College, Oxford. He graduated in 1860, proceeded to become Bachelor in Civil Law (BCL) and was later called to the Bar. He married first Eliza Harriet Maria Nation, daughter of William Nation of Rockbeare House, Devon. When the 1871 census was taken the Folletts lived at Polsloe House, Exeter. During his mayoralty he launched the City of Exeter Improved Industrial Dwellings Company to provide “commodious and healthy dwellings for the poorer classes” in the city.

Sir William Webb Follett, lawyer and politician (1835) by Frederick Richard SayRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

William Webb Follett enjoyed a highly successful legal and political career, rising to the position of Attorney-General. Since his political career and contribution to national life is fully covered in the DNB entry, this contribution largely concentrates on his local associations with Exeter.

Richard Somers Gard, MP for Exeter (1840/1850) by Anonymous English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Richard Somers Gard was born at North Tawton in 1797, the son of James Gard Esq., woollen manufacturer, and Elizabeth, his wife. His career began as a clerk in the City Bank in Exeter run by Messrs Sparkes, but later he went into business in London where he made a fortune investing in £1 shares in the Devon Great Consols Copper Mine when they rose to the record price of £600 per share.

Gerald Hall (1945) by Beryl NewmanRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) operated the wartime military hospital at Moretonhampstead where this drawing of Gerald Hall was produced, according to the artist's inscription, on "Good Friday March 1945." The hospital dealt with a wide variety of clinical, surgical and orthopaedic cases, as well as covering opthalmics, ear, nose and throat, and dermatology. Knee injuries formed a high proportion of orthopaedic admissions while malaria relapse in troops returning from overseas was a regular occurrence.

John Heath, judge (1700) by Anonymous English School, previously attributed to ReinagleRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

John Heath was born in Exeter. He was the only survivor of four sons of Thomas Heath (1704/5-1759) by his first wife Anne Pyne (c.1701-1736) (2). His father remarried and fathered two more sons, Benjamin and Thomas, who served the City Council as Town Clerk and Mayor respectively.

Sir Richard Hoare (1780/1785) by John Opie, R.ARoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Sir Richard was first married to his cousin, Anne Hoare (1737–1759), known as Nanny, daughter of Henry Hoare (1705-1785), banker, of Stourhead, and his wife, Susan Colt (d. 1743) (7). Richard and Anne had two children –Henry Richard, who died young, and Richard Colt (1758-1838). She died six months after his birth. In May 1761 Richard married again, this time to Frances Ann Acland (1736–1800), daughter of Richard and Ann Acland of Beckenham in Kent (in turn related to the Devon Aclands), and with whom he had four sons and two daughters.

Lady Frances Hoare (1780/1785) by John Opie, R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

he sitter was the second wife of Sir Richard Hoare, also painted by Opie. Lady Frances Hoare celebrated a richness of lifestyle with her husband. She passed away at the age of 63 in the year 1800.

Clementina Hooper (1823) by Possibly by Charles Howard Hodges, R.A.,Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Clementina Hooper (nee Burnside) was born on 12 July 1803, the daughter of Robert and Catharine Burnside. At the age of twenty she married George Stanley Hooper (1797-1867) of the East India Company. The births of six children were recorded in the Asiatic Journal between 1825 and 1840, while another three children, Charles, Frederick and Alice, were recorded as being born in the East Indies between 1844 and 1847 in the 1861 census, by which time the family had returned to England.

William Wills Hooper, Mayor of Exeter (1853) by Richard Augustus ClackRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

William Wills Hooper was mayor of Exeter twice, in 1850-51 and 1851-52. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries only a handful of individuals served two consecutive terms of office and there were usually exceptional circumstances such as the First and Second World Wars when the mayor remained for the duration of hostilities. His brother, Henry W. Hooper was also mayor, in 1843-44 and again in 1857-58.

Deborah Hopton and her Son (1694) by James Gandy (attributed to) (1619-1689)Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Dame Deborah Hopton was the daughter of Robert Hatton, serjeant-at-law, and his wife Alice Dreynes Hatton of Thames Ditton in Surrey. She was born c.1627, being baptised in March of that year at the parish church there. Her first husband was Isaac Jones, Gentleman (c.1620-1647), whom she married in 1644 and by whom she had two children, Isaac and Alice. The family lived at Kingston, Surrey but held property in Bletchingley, Surrey and at Austin Friars in the City of London.

Mary or Anne Hungate (1580/1620) by Anonymous English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The association of this painting with either Anne Catesby or Mary Hungate was not clear from the museum’s documentation. However, it has now been proved that Mrs Mostyn, the 1946 donor, was connected through her husband’s family to the Brownes of Kiddington, Oxfordshire. Sir Henry Browne (c.1562-1628) married twice. His first wife was Anne Catesby, daughter of Sir William Catesby of Ashby St. Legers, Northamptonshire, while his second wife was Mary Hungate, daughter of Sir Philip Hungate of Saxton, Yorkshire.

Mrs Archibald Hutcheson (1770/1800) by Ozias Humphrey, RA,Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Hutcheson was married four times. His first marriage was to Mary Smith in 1697 and after her death he married Rebecca Bankes of Topsham in 1701. She had died by 1715 when he married Mary Lady Gayre, the wealthy widow of a West Indian merchant. The couple separated c.1720 (2). He married his fourth wife, Elizabeth Stewart on 30 October 1727 at St. Anne’s Church, Soho (3). Elizabeth was the widow of Colonel Robert Stewart (or Stuart) of Montserrat. Her maiden name was Lawrence and she came from Dorset.

William Jackson, musician, painter, and author (previously thought to be) (1762/1765) by Attributed to Thomas Gainsborough, RA, (previously thought to be)Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

William Jackson was the son of an Exeter grocer and from an early age showed musical and artistic talent. He was a cathedral chorister in Exeter from the age of twelve to fifteen when he was sent to London to study at the Chapel Royal. Returning to Exeter in 1748 he earned his living as a musician. Musical compositions, mainly secular and sacred vocal works, followed and of these the comic opera, The Lord of the Manor, written in 1780 was perhaps the most successful.

William Kennaway senior (1760/1780) by Anonymous English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

William Kennaway followed his father into the serge-making business and was responsible for the firm’s expansion. His account books survive for the period 1751-1793 and were used by Professor W.G. Hoskins for his study of the city’s merchants in the eighteenth century. William took three of his sons into the business. In 1786, then nearing the age of seventy, he reckoned that the whole business was worth £31,600, of which his own share amounted to nearly £26,000. By the early 1790s the greater part of the Kennaways’ business was with Italy and Spain.

James Leary, murderer (1813) by Benjamin Robert HaydonRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

James, or Jem, Leary was born in Ireland in or around 1783. He settled in London and worked in the building trade as a bricklayer’s labourer. The case against Leary rested on suspicion that he murdered Irish cattle dealer Edward Clifford for money, although none was ever found on Leary or in his lodgings. His defence was weakened by having no alibi for his movements in the early hours of the night of the murder, inconsistencies in the statements he made to the authorities and the discovery of the likely murder weapon in Leary’s room. The jury returned a verdict of guilty and the judge, Mr Justice Heath condemned Leary to death. He was hanged on Monday 20 September 1813.

Charles Lewis, Secretary of the West of England Fire & Life Insurance Company (1810/1820) by Anonymous English schoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Charles Lewis was born in the West Indies in 1787 (2). In 1808 he joined the West of England Insurance Company (from the late 1810s known as the West of England Fire & Life Insurance Company) shortly after it opened its Exeter office (3). Two years later, at the age of twenty-three, he was appointed Secretary, a post he occupied for another forty years until his retirement in 1850.

Henry Matthews, druggist of Exeter (1823) by Isaac Faulkner Bird of BidefordRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

In September 1817 Henry and William Matthews took over the grocery and apothecary business of George Houghton in Exeter’s Fore Street. The business became known variously as William & Henry Matthews, and Matthews & Co. and as such is listed in Exeter directories at 101 Fore Street between 1831 and 1841. A series of advertisements, ranging from baby food to anti-ferment for cider, is to be found through the 1820s and 30s for their growing business. In April 1828 there were looking to recruit an apprentice.

William Matthews, woollen merchant of Exeter (1820/1830) by Anonymous English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The relationship between William Matthews, the sitter in this portrait, and Henry
Matthews, the druggist, the subject of a portrait by Isaac Bird, has not been established. There are records of a William Matthews involved in the Exeter woollen cloth trade in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. The first is an entry in Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post for January 1810 and concerns the dissolution of the partnership between Matthews & Seaman, Exeter fullers. William Matthews is listed as a hot presser in Magdalene Street in the 1831 Directory for Exeter.

Mrs William H. Mayers (1876) by Frederick William CartwrightRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

In June 1875 William Henry and Maria Mayers were wed in Dartford. The newly-married couple went to live at Clevedon Lodge, Thurlow Park Road, Dulwich. The 1881 census tells us that as well as William Henry and his wife Maria, there were two children – Ethel M. and Horace M. - and two servants (cook and housemaid). Ten years later the family had grown with the birth of a second son, Stanley R.

Mrs Elizabeth Meymott (1782/1787) by John Opie, R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Mrs Elizabeth Meymott (nee Bunn) was the sister of John Opie’s first wife, Mary Bunn. Their father was a solicitor and “Deputy for Portsoken Ward, London”. On 20 January 1791 Elizabeth Bunn married William Gurr Meymott at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square. Meymott was a surveyor, whose role in supervising building control is documented at various London and Surrey buildings.

William Miles (1882) by Thomas Webster, R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Webster’s father was a member of George III’s household and wanted his son to become a musician - as a boy he sang in the Chapel Royal Choir. Following an introduction to Fuseli he became a student at the Royal Academy. A noted genre painter he was influenced by the Flemish school of the 17th century. In 1856 he moved to Cranbrook, Kent where he was a senior member of the Cranbrook Colony - a group of artists who lived and worked there every summer painting genre scene of everyday life.

Dr. Patrick Miller, physician (1865) by A.R SolonceRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Patrick Miller was born in Ayreshire in 1782, the eldest son of Rev. Thomas Miller D.D., minister of Cumnock. He graduated from Edinburgh University, becoming an M.D. in 1804. Three years later he moved south and came to Exeter. He was elected physician to the Devon & Exeter Hospital on 28 December 1809 and retained this position until 1860.

Sir William Morice, politician and landowner (1770/1790) by Thomas JenkinsRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Sir William Morice was descended from a family who had long been connected with Devon and Exeter. His grandfather, Sir William Morice (1602-76), helped General Monck bring back Charles II to the English throne and he rose to become principal Secretary of State and Privy-Counsellor.

Evelyn Phelps Morse (1884) by Healy [or Hely?] Augustus Morton SmithRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Evelyn Caroline Mary Phelps was married to Sidney Morse in Exeter Cathedral in 1884. Sidney Morse was a doctor, described in the 1891 census as a General Practitioner. He may well have been a family friend because he came from Crewkerne. The newly married couple settled in Wadhurst, Sussex, where they lived at Lucksland House. By 1891 their family had grown to two sons and one daughter. They were supported by three servants.

William Musgrave, physician and antiquary (1700) by Thomas HawkerRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Dr William Musgrave, the learned physician and antiquary, was born at Nettlecombe, Somerset in 1655. He was educated at Winchester, New College Oxford and the University of Leiden, graduating from Oxford in 1682. Two years later he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and served as its second secretary for a year in 1685. Musgrave graduated M.D. in 1689 and practised in Oxford until 1692 when he moved to Exeter. He lived there for the rest of his life.

Needham of Melton Mowbray (1740/1750) by Anonymous English School, previously attributed to Sir Joshua ReynoldsRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

According to a handwritten label on the stretcher this portrait depicts “one of the Needham family of Melton Mowbray”. It also tells us it was “formerly in the collections of the late Lord Kilmorey & of T Kynnersley [sic] of Leighton Hall, Leighton”. The Earldom of Kilmorey, from Kilmorey, co Clare, was created in 1625, for Sir Robert Needham, of Shenton. Shropshire. The Needham or Nedham family have their roots in Shropshire and Cheshire, where they can be traced back to the early twelfth century.

Sir Benjamin Oliver, fuller and mayor of Exeter (1670) by Attributed to William GandyRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

This portrait of Sir Benjamin Oliver, formerly part of the Guildhall collection, records the sitter in the fur-edged robes of the mayoralty, a position he enjoyed in 1670-1 the year before his death. Benjamin Oliver was one of the most successful and wealthiest fullers in Exeter. He was Master of the Fullers Guild in 1645-6. Youings’ classic study of the Exeter fullers demonstrated how some “became extremely wealthy and influential men”.

Thomas Osborne, itinerant bookseller and stationer (1800/1810) by Anonymous English schoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Thomas, or Tommy, Osborne was an itinerant bookseller and stationer who achieved local fame as one of Exeter’s distinctive street characters in the early nineteenth century. As such he was commemorated in two oil portraits in RAMM and in an engraving.

Thomas Osborne, itinerant bookseller and stationer (1800/1810) by George CoombesRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Palmer Family (about 1822) by James Leakey (1775-1865)Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Samuel and Mary Palmer lived in the 1820s at Newington, Surrey. By the time of the
1841 census we find them settled at Dulwich Common. Here they enjoyed considerable comfort and were supported a decade later by a cook, a footman, a coachman and a housemaid. In his will, proved in 1850, Samuel Palmer described himself as “Esquire”. It is clear from this source that he had financial interests in the business (unspecified) of his brother James, while another brother, William Henry Palmer, was a wine merchant in Fenchurch Street, London.

Matthew Pear, Sword Bearer of Exeter, and his Brother Philip Pear (about 1700) by William Gandy (attributed to) (c.1650-1729)Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Matthew Pear was born into the large family of eight children of Philip and Dorothy Pear. He was christened in St. Martin’s Church, Exeter, on 1 February 1694. His father was a druggist, a Common Councillor and later Alderman of the City. It has been speculated that his shop lay in the High Street, although his dwelling may have been elsewhere in St. Martin’s parish. When he died in 1718 Philip Pear left no less than six houses in the city, five to his children and another to his wife.

John Perriam (1616) by Anonymous English schoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

John Perriam was the younger son of John Perriam, the elder (c.1510-73), merchant and mayor of Exeter who had made his fortune in the tin trade. His brother, Sir William Perriam (1534-1604), was a lawyer and became Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer. Sir William’s monument is to be seen in Holy Cross Church, Crediton and there is a portrait in the National Portrait Gallery. Like his father John became a leading merchant in Exeter.

Reuben Phillips, druggist and politician (1831) by William SharlandRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Reuben Phillips was a well-known Exeter druggist and a long-time member of the City Council who served successively as Sherriff and Mayor of the City. The portrait depicts him in robes of an alderman of the City. It was painted by William Sharland through money raised by public subscription and presented to the City Council in 1831 when Phillips was eighty-four years old.

Captain Charles Proby (1753) by Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Charles Proby was born in 1725 into a family which was to have very strong naval connections. Following a successful career at sea rising to the rank of captain, Proby went on to be Commissioner of the Royal Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth, the most senior officer in charge of the whole yard. By marriage he was connected to the Pownalls; his father-in-law being Clerk of the Cheque, the equivalent of second in command at HM Royal Naval Dockyard at Devonport, while his brother-in-law, Philemon Pownall the Younger, had a distinguished and highly profitable naval career until his death in action in 1780.

Mrs Thomas Selby (1850/1854) by Samuel Cousins, R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Sir Michael Seymour,first baronet, naval officer (1816/1828) by James Northcote, R.A.,Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Northcote’s portrait depicts the sitter wearing the uniform of an admiral. One of the medals he is wearing represents the Knight Commander of the Honorable Military Order of Bath and the other may be the King’s gold medal awarded in 1808. Seymour’s naval career was marked by slow recognition of his achievements, something that is not evident from the impressive titles he held by the time of his death.

George Shears, churchwarden for St Sidwell's (1820/1830) by James TremlettRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

George Shears, sometime churchwarden of St. Sidwell’s church, Exeter, married Elizabeth Vincent there on 11 February 1796. He is listed in the 1816 directory as a maltster in St. Sidwell’s, and later as clerk of the coaching office at the London Inn. His wife died aged fifty-seven in March 1828 “after fulfilling well, in her days of activity all the relative duties of life, and supporting a lingering illness with pious resignation”. He survived a further eleven years.

Mary Somerville , scientific scholar and writer (1834) by Attributed to Thomas PhillipsRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Little was known about the sitter, Mrs Somerville, until it was realised during research that a lithographic version of this portrait is held in the National Portrait Gallery. It immediately became clear that the sitter is the scientific scholar and influential writer,
Mary Somerville (1780-1872).

Nicholas Spicer, merchant and Mayor of Exeter (1611) by Anonymous English schoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Nicholas Spicer was a merchant and freeman of Exeter who held the office of Mayor in 1603-1604, 1629-1630 and 1644-1645. This painting with its symbols and inscriptions of death belongs to a group known as “memento mori” portraits.

William Stephens, innkeeper and coach proprietor (1836) by James Loder of BathRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

This equestrian portrait of William Stephens depicts one of Exeter’s most successful coach proprietors of the early nineteenth century. In 1807 he was described as being 23 years of age and he was then a coach driver on the London and Exeter Mail. Stephens had a large family of two sons and seven daughters, the latter being known collectively as “the Seven Graces”.

Thomas Taunton as a Child (about 1750) by English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

The clue to unravelling the history of this charming pair of portraits of the Taunton children is provided by the label attached to the paintings. Previously thought to be indecipherable it reads: “Sons of Captain Taunton/of Purzebrook House/ Axminster”. Purzebrook House is a long Georgian house in Musbury Road, Axminster. It was substantially remodelled in the third quarter of the eighteenth-century to produce the present nine bay street elevation, with its elegant doorcase of fluted pilasters and a broken pediment. The Tauntons were wealthy merchants from near Bridport.

Samuel Taunton as a Child (about 1850) by English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

English 18th century portraits of children often reflected the conventions of adult portraiture. Although by a provincial hand, this, and the portrait of Thomas Taunton, conform to the feigned oval bust length format employed by the most fashionable painters of the day.

Joan Tuckfield (1560) by Anonymous English SchoolRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

This is one of the earliest portraits in the Exeter collection. It was painted c.1560 when the sitter, Joan Tuckfield, was a sixty-seven year old widow. Joan Tuckfield was the wife of the Exeter merchant and alderman, John Tuckfield. The portrait of Joan Tuckfield is of particular interest because of the costume details.

Wagg family of Windsor (1738/1740) by Francis Hayman, R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

One of Hayman’s earliest conversation portraits, this was once attributed to Bartholomew Dandridge and even William Hogarth. Inscription: handwritten label on verso: “Portrait of the Wagg family, whitesmiths of Windsor”.

Rev. Henry Walrond (1725/1730) by Attributed to William GandyRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Henry Walrond was the younger son of William Walrond and Ann (nee Courtenay) of
Kentisbeare. In 1759 he married Dorothy Milford, by whom he had three children – William (1762), Francis (1763), and Peggy (1765). His brother, Courtenay,
inherited the family seat, Bradfield in Uffculme parish and lived there until his death in 1765, when the title passed to Henry.

James White, of Fordland (1779) by John Downman A.R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

As the inscription on the backing board states this portrait by John Downman depicts “James White of Fordland Exeter Barrister Bencher of Linc[oln’s] Inn.” As well as pursuing a distinguished legal career, White was a member of a small group of cultural luminaries in Exeter who enjoyed literature, art, history, music, and travel.

Eliza Hubbard Woolmer, wife of James Leakey (1826/1834) by James LeakeyRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Elizabeth Hubbard Woolmer was born on 20 December 1793. She was the daughter of Joseph and Sarah Woolmer. On 28 August 1815 she married the artist James Leakey (1775-1865) at St. Sidwell’s Church, Exeter. They had eleven children. Three of the sons became church ministers and one of the daughters, Caroline Woolmer Leakey (1827-1881) became a religious writer.

Eliza Hubbard Woolmer, wife of James Leakey (1810/1820) by James LeakeyRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Shirley Woolmer (1810/1825) by James LeakeyRoyal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

There are two Shirley Woolmers in the historical record in Exeter c.1810-25. They are father and son. The first, Shirley Woolmer senior, was the successful printer, bookseller and author. By 1781 he had moved to Exeter and in that year took over the business of Henry Mugg, bookseller and stationer. Shirley Woolmer, senior, was a leading light in and strong supporter of the foundation of a new Independent church for the orthodox members of the Bow Meeting group who separated from the Meeting in 1795.

Isabella Wyatt (1783) by John Opie R.A.Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

In this splendid portrait of Isabella Wyatt, Opie adds a lozenge bearing the Wyatt arms viz “Sable (black), a fess dancetty (i.e. zigzag stripe) Argent (silver), between three eagles displayed Or (gold), a chief of the last (i.e., gold)”, clearly indicating that this is before the formal adoption of the combined Wyatt Edgell family name in 1813. Isabella Wyatt was the third daughter of Richard Wyatt, senior, of Egham, (for whom the portrait was painted), and his wife Priscilla Edgell.

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