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...

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