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.

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