Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Rice Portrait - Who were the Harding Newmans? - Part Four - Benjamin Harding Newman

Benjamin Harding Newman was born in Cork, Ireland in 1842, the son of Captain Benjamin Harding Newman and his wife Anna Lefroy Sadleir. His maternal grandmother was Elizabeth (Eliza) Lefroy, younger sister of Thomas Langlois Lefroy.

Benjamin Harding Newman's father died in Bermuda of yellow fever when he was an infant and the 1851 census shows Benjamin living at 16 St George Road, Cheltenham with his grandmother Elizabeth, mother Anna and younger sister. Harriet. Ten years on at the time of the 1861 census the 18 year-old Benjamin is recorded as a boarder, living with farmer and landowner John Hastings and his family at Gressenhall in Norfolk.  

In 1868 Benjamin married Charlotte Augusta North, the daughter of John North, a general medical  practitioner and J.P. from Brecon, Wales. (Three years later Charlotte's brother John Cunningham North married Helen Stringer in New Romney, Kent and later practiced as a surgeon and apothecary at Horsmonden, the village where Jane Austen's family originated. When John North was practicing it was the home of John Francis Austen, nephew of Colonel Thomas Austen. John Cunningham North died of pneumonia on 11 May 1882 at Horsmonden, at the early age of 34.)

In the 1881 census Benjamin Harding Newman is listed at 91 Kensington Gardens Square, West London with his wife Charlotte and their six young children and five servants. He is recorded as having no profession so perhaps he already had an income from other property.

Benjamin's uncle, Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding Newman died on 21 April 1882 with probate granted on 5 June 1882. His will recorded the following provision:

I give my wines spirits and consumable stores my furniture plate books and china glass pictures prints drawings objects of art and vertu and other household effects at Nelmes and my horses carriages garden and stable utensils and outdoor effects to my Nephew Benjamin Harding Newman absolutely. 

Excerpt from will of Thomas Harding Newman

Thomas Harding Newman left his property interests at Blue Hole, Hanover in Jamaica to Charles Harding Newman Ringer, the son of his step-sister Julia; the remainder of his property including his estate at Nelmes and at Great Clacton he left to Benjamin, albeit with some encumbrances which we'll come to in a minute.

Nelmes, Essex 
In my previous post on Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding Newman I related that he had written to his friend Dr John Rouse Bloxam in 1880, stating that he wanted to give the portrait of Jane Austen in his possession to their mutual friend and Bloxam's neighbour, John Morland Rice. In the event he never did pass the portrait on to his friend. The portrait therefore must have passed with the other effects to his nephew Benjamin. This is borne out by a further letter, from Dr John Rouse Bloxam to a third party. On Easter Monday 1883 Dr. Bloxam wrote a letter to his friend General Gibbes Rigaud. In it he said:

Talking of paintings Hardman [sic] Newman, nephew of Dr Newman has just sent me a full length portrait by Zoffany of Miss Austen, the novelist, to give to Rice, who is a connection of the Lady.  - Rice is much pleased with it - I knew that Newman intended to leave it to Rice, but did not, - but his nephew to his great credit has given it.

At the time Benjamin Harding Newman was no doubt feeling rather well-off, having just inherited considerable land, estates and property from his uncle. In the same year, 1883, he sold one of these inherited estates, the 265 acre manor of Romford or 'Mawneys' to a housing developer.

But financial problems were looming. Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman, in an effort to ensure his relatives were financially looked after, had made a number of provisions in his will which gave various individuals a claim against the estates. A cousin, Thomas Harding Newman, was given an annual charge of £80; his brother's widow Anna Lefroy Newman was given £100 per annum; his niece Harriet Croker was given £300 per annum; his sister Eliza Hall Allies was granted an annual rent charge of £100 per annum and his butler Henry Tyrell was granted £50 per annum.  This was in addition to various bequests to family members and servants.

As early as 1886 there were signs of problems in making these payments as evidenced by a series of letters held by the Hampshire record office. In that year Tankerville Chamberlain landowner and MP and an old friend of Rev. Dr Harding Newman, wrote to his solicitor on behalf of Henry Tyrell explaining that Benjamin Harding Newman had stopped payment of the annuity and asking for his assistance:

The writer of the enclosed was butler to an old friend of mine, Dr Harding Newman, Fellow of Magdalen College. He can’t get his annuity and wants to know if he has any remedy, I have told him to call on you on Thursday at 3. Please advise him and debit me. 

On 27 Jan 1887 Benjamin Harding Newman wrote to Tyrell paying the outstanding balance of eleven shillings and offering £500 to discharge Tyrell's claim on the estate:

I enclose you an order for 11 shillings as balance of annuity. I see no prospect of either rents or tithes being paid with anything like punctuality in the future, are you willing to accept £500 to discharge your claim on the estate. I do not make the offer but might be inclined to do so, or purchase an annuity from an insurance office if you prefer.

Benjamin Harding Newman was by no means alone; Britain had been facing a severe agricultural depression since around 1873 and by the 1880s many landowners were experiencing colossal losses in income.    

Richard Harding Newman by
Romney  - the 'Pink Boy'

In 1889/90 Benjamin Harding Newman sold the portrait by George Romney of his great-grandfather Richard Harding Newman. It was acquired by Alfred de Rothschild and later by Michael Arthur Bass, 1st Lord Burton for £8000, and was hung above the fireplace in the drawing room at his Mayfair mansion Chesterfield House, where it became known by the sobriquet the 'Pink Boy'.

By the 1891 census Benjamin and Charlotte Harding Newman, together with three of their children, Thomas, Edith and Marian, are recorded as being at 18 Cleveland Square, Paddington. Described as living on own means' they have still retained a ladies maid and a cook, parlourmaid, kitchenmaid and housemaid.

Then, in 1894, Benjamin Harding Newman was declared bankrupt. According to the bankruptcy proceedings Benjamin was living at the Inns of Court Hotel in Holborn, and prior to this at the Great Western Hotel in Paddington and for some time at Llangoed in Brecon, home of his wife's family. The bankruptcy court recorded that Harding Newman had been living off the income from his estates which were encumbered with mortgages and annuities. Benjamin himself blamed pressure from his creditors, excessive interest charges and the agricultural depression for the bankruptcy.

In 1895 the southern part of the Nelmes estate at Hornchurch was sold to developer William Carter of Dorset who built the Emerson Park estate, now a prestigious residential area popular with West Ham footballers.
Plans for Emerson Park Estate
In the 1901 census Benjamin Harding Newman, his wife Charlotte and three of their six children are living in Surbiton with Benjamin still recorded as living off his own means. In the same year the northern part of the Nelmes estate was also sold for development and in 1903 the house itself, Great Nelmes, was sold to Alfred Barber, a sack and bag manufacturer from Islington. In June 1902 Benjamin Harding Newman made a short will; his address was given as Mawneys, Catherine Road, Surbiton in the County of Surrey. (He had evidently named his house after the estate he had sold in Romney) He bequeathed all his property to his son Edward, a captain in the British army and mentions a debt to Martins Bank of £60 to be paid from his estate.

Benjamin's wife, Charlotte Harding Newman died in 1908 at Newmarket, presumably at the home of her eldest son Francis who lived at Chippenham, Newmarket in Cambridgeshire.

After this there appears to have been a radical change in circumstances for Benjamin Harding Newman. For at the time of the next census, taken on 2 April 1911, he is recorded as lodging with a grocer, Frederick Mewton, his wife Annie and two sons at Brookside, Mount Charles, St Austell, Cornwall.
Benjamin Harding Newman on the 1911 census 

The Mewtons were a Cornish family, originally from nearby Roche, where Frederick Mewton's father was a shoemaker. Frederick and Annie Mewton also acted as witnesses to a codicil Benjamin Harding Newman added to his will on 05 October 1914, in which his address was given as  'formerly of Mawneys Catherine Road Surbiton in the County of Surrey but now of Brookside Watering Hill St Austell Cornwall'. The Great War had started and his son Edward was serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France. As Edward was the sole executor of his father's will, Benjamin therefore made provision, in the event of his son pre-deceasing him, that his eldest daughter Edith should act as executor. The debt to Martins Bank evidently remained outstanding for he renewed the direction that payment of £60 'or any other sum which I may owe to them and interest thereon' should be paid from his estate.

I have been unable to discover what could possibly have brought Benjamin Harding Newman to live in Cornwall. None of his six children lived in the area and his sister Harriet was in Oxfordshire; there is no connection to St Austell that I have uncovered.

And here is a very curious coincidence - if coincidence it is.

The Cassandra Sketch
The portrait of Jane Austen owned by the National Portrait Gallery and which is on display is the unfinished sketch thought to have been drawn by Jane's sister Cassandra. The National Portrait Gallery purchased the sketch  at a Sothebys auction in 1948 from the dead estate of Frederick Richard Lovering, a china clay merchant, whose residence was a grand town house in the centre of St Austell named 'Caprera'. The Lovering family were well established as one of the major industrial families of St Austell. Born in 1861, Fred Lovering was instrumental in forming the important china clay manufacturing company of ECLP (English Clays Lovering Pochin and Co), later the English China Clays Group.

Lovering had purchased the portrait along with a lock of Jane Austen's hair and some of Jane Austen's letters from the grand-daughters of Jane's brother, Charles Austen in 1925-7, with the assistance of Austen scholar Robert Chapman. Lovering is described by Austen scholar Claudia Johnson in her book Cults and Cultures as 'certainly one of the first collectors of Austeniana.' According to Deirdre Le Faye, Frederick Lovering was a neighbour of Charles Austen's descendants, however I can find no record of any of Charles Austen's descendants  living in St Austell.

Isn't it rather strange that two men, who both owned portraits of Jane Austen (hardly a commonplace), happened to live at the very same time in the same relatively obscure town in Cornwall? It is very possible that Benjamin Harding Newman knew Frederick Lovering during the years he was living in St Austell, a small town with limited opportunity for socialising. Did Benjamin Harding Newman tell Lovering the story of the portrait of Jane Austen he had inherited from his uncle and then given to Morland Rice? Could it be this connection that lay the foundation for Frederick Lovering's interest in collecting memorabilia of Jane Austen?

Benjamin Harding Newman died aged about 75, on 21 July 1917. By now he was living at Highfield Avenue, a street of modest terraced houses, in the centre of St Austell. Administration was granted to his son Edward. (Brigadier-General Edward Harding Newman survived both world wars and did not die until 1955) At the time of his death Benjamin Harding Newman's personal estate was valued for probate at fifty-three pounds, eight shillings and sixpence.
Will of Benjamin Harding Newman 
Probate entry for Benjamin Harding Newman

And now, with Benjamin Harding Newman's death, the connection of the Harding Newman family to the portrait of Jane Austen, through three generations, finally came to an end.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Rice Portrait - Who were the Harding Newmans? Part Three - The Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding-Newman

Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding Newman
When Colonel Thomas Harding Newman died in 1856, the bulk of his wealth including the estates of Nelmes, Black Callerton and Great Clacton went to his eldest son, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Harding Newman. It is likely to be at this point that the Rice portrait passed into his ownership.

Rev. Dr Thomas Harding Newman was born in 1811 to Thomas Harding Newman and Harriet née Cartwright. His mother died when he was four, after which his father re-married twice, first Elizabeth Ann Hall and secondly Anna Maria Parry.

He went up to Wadham College, Oxford in 1829 and was elected a Demy at Magdalen College in 1832. Here he became close friends with Thomas William Allies.

He was ordained priest in 1837 and became a Fellow of Magdalen College in 1846. He appears on the 1851 census at 15 Buckingham Street, Westminster as a teacher of classical literature.

Thomas' daughter Mary Allies recounted in her biography of her father that he and Thomas Harding Newman became very close friends at Oxford and that in 1833 the two of them went abroad to France and Italy, only returning at the end of 1836. Not long after this Allies fell headlong in love with Thomas Harding Newman's sister, Eliza Hall Newman, whom he met at Cheltenham in 1837 when she was just fifteen. Mary Allies published Thomas' diary entries for 1839 which are full of references to the Harding Newmans and visits to Nelmes.

Thomas Allies finally married Eliza Hall Newman in October 1840 when Eliza was eighteen, having overcome the opposition of her grandfathers Thomas Hall and Richard Newman, neither of whom were terribly keen on the match.

Eliza Hall Allies by George Richmond
reproduced by kind permission of Francis Allies

During his years at Oxford, Thomas Harding Newman gained quite a reputation as a prankster and an eccentric. On one occasion he bedecked a flower box outside his window with coloured home-made imitation flowers which attracted some attention on a winter's day and on another occasion he pretended to catch an enormous pike while fishing from his window which overlooked the river. He hauled it up amidst great excitement from a crowd of friends, only for them to discover it was made of stuffed cardboard wrapped in tinfoil. Another time he caused quite a stir by pretending to  thrash an undergraduate (in fact a pillow) with a cane while imitating the cries of the imaginary victim. These are some of the recorded pranks; according to Rev. William Tuckwell in his Reminiscences of Oxford many of his jokes were too coarse to be repeated. Tuckwell remembered him with fondness however:  'Of the remaining Fellows I will say no more…Two among them, Whorwood and T.H Newman claim a kindly though certainly not a reverential interest,' he wrote. This reputation for buffoonery is an interesting contrast to the character portrayed in the diary of Thomas Allies who expressed great concern about his friend's low sprits and 'inconstancy of purpose'. On August 30, 1939 he recorded that Harding Newman 'altogether seems to have no belief in Christian doctrines.'

In his appearance, according to the same obituary, he was of middling height, 'sprightly and springy;the countenance oval, the nostrils large, the nose rectangular and serving at the tip to support his spectacles, the mouth rather broad and rippling with humour, the eye prominent and environed by a huge ring, and the forehead partially concealed under a chestnut wig cut straight; in a word a Pickwick without embonpoint, and with a sarcastic in lieu of a weak mouth.' He combined this idiosyncratic appearance vocally with 'a ridiculously raucous voice and an odd laugh.' He was, before all things, a raconteur.

In 1873 Thomas Harding Newman resigned his Fellowship at Magdalen College. W.D. Macray in his Register of the Members of  St Mary Magdalen College recorded the following assessment of Harding Newman: 'Possessing artistic taste and knowledge, he yet, by an unrestrained indulgence of humour which led to great eccentricity, practically often acted as the College jester, and it must be said that it was well for the College, and all for any parish in which he might have lived, that he never became the incumbent of any benefice in the gift of the College.' All the tom-foolery had clearly not endeared him to the Oxford establishment and a friend, L.B Page, later wrote to The Times that Harding Newman had given up his fellowship on account of his 'extraordinary eccentricities'. He described Thomas as a strange character and eccentric-looking who wore a wig and dyed his whiskers. He said that he also was a collector who liked collecting 'unconsidered trifles' - he took home a chamber organ which one of the colleges was chucking out and he also had the old gates of Balliol college when the buildings were being rebuilt and installed them at his home at Nelmes.

Nelmes, Hornchurch, Essex
In the same year, 1873, the Court of Queen's Bench heard the case of Newman v Griffith. It involved a case against the vicar at Harding Newman's local church in Hornchurch. The vicar, Thomas Henry Griffith, had written letters in which he accused Thomas Harding Newman of having committed an 'unnatural offence', in other words of being gay. These accusations had been circulating, according the the court report, for a considerable length of time with a large number of letters having passed between the parties and between various members of Magdalen College and eventually Thomas Harding Newman had decided to sue Griffith for damages for libel and slander. Griffith did not enter a justification defence (now called a truth defence), but instead relied on the claim that Harding Newman was out of time to bring the action. He lost the case on this technicality and Harding Newman was awarded £300 damages by the jury.

For the last ten years of his life Thomas Harding Newman spent much of his time at his house, Rill Cottage at Great Clacton, now a suburb of Clacton-on-Sea but then a settlement in its own right.
By 1880 Thomas Harding Newman was approaching seventy years of age. Perhaps he was putting his affairs in order, for in December of that year he wrote a letter to his friend 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.

John Morland Rice was the grandson of Jane's brother Edward Austen Knight and was rector of the neighbouring parish to Bloxham's in Sussex. Thomas Harding Newman had no direct heir and his property was to be passed to his nephew Benjamin, so its easy to see why he might want to give the portrait to his old friend. Why he thought the portrait was a Zoffany is not clear. Zoffany and Humphry were contemporaries, they had both spent some years in India and had known each other. Perhaps Harding Newman had mis-read the signature on the portrait as 'Zoffany' rather than 'Humphry'. In any event he never did get around to passing the portrait on to Morland Rice.

Great Clacton
Thomas Harding Newman died on 21 April 1882 at Nelmes at the age of 71. His remains were taken to Great Clacton by train from where the funeral cortege left Rill Cottage for the church at Great Clacton in according with his request. Present at the funeral were the vicars of Hornchurch (Griffith having long gone) and Little Clacton as well as close friends and relatives, including his nephew Benjamin, the son of his brother, Captain Benjamin Harding Newman. The local paper reported that large numbers of local people also turned out to witness the sad ceremony.

Thomas Harding Newman was evidently an interesting and complex character. Practical joker and undoubtedly eccentric, he was also, according to his obituary in Jackson's Oxford Journal and others,'a man of high attainments in arts, and a very popular member of the Athenaeum Club and was also well known in West-end society'. The Essex Standard recorded that he was 'a true-hearted gentleman, kind, courteous, liberal and sympathising.'

As Thomas Harding Newman had not in fact given the portrait to Morland Rice it passed with the rest of his estate to his nephew, Benjamin Harding Newman, who is the subject of my next post.