Samuel Kilderbee (1725—1813)

Samuel Kilderbee was an Ipswich lawyer, now remembered chiefly for being a life-long friend of Thomas Gainsborough. He had a successful career as an attorney, in particular representing Nathaniel Acton in many legal transactions. In 1755, during the period of political turmoil in Ipswich, he was installed as Town Clerk, a position he retained until 1767. It is unclear if the Gainsboroughs had known the Kilderbees before Gainsborough’s move to Ipswich after his London training, but it is certainly possible. The Kilderbee family had been living for several generations in Framlingham, while Gainsborough was from Sudbury, on the other side of Ipswich.  Once they did meet, they became firm friends until the end, although, as with much of Gainsborough’s life, direct evidence is scanty. From Gainsborough’s letters, we know his family visited the Kilderbees from London in the 1770’s, and Gainsborough and Kilderbee made a tour of the Lake District in 1783. Gainsborough made Kilderbee `overseer’ of the execution of his will and Kilderbee visited Gainsborough on his death-bed, where he reported that Gainsborough, “regretted the dissolute life he had led, but added, `They must take me altogether, liberal, thoughtless, and dissipated.'” William Jackson said that Gainsborough’s letters to Kilderbee were `brilliant but eccentric, and too licentious to be published’, and indeed they never were.

Early on, Gainsborough painted portraits of Kilderbee (at least twice), his wife, and one of her brothers.

Later, he painted a portrait of the Kilderbee’s son, the Rev. Samuel Kilderbee.

The Kilderbee family had some interesting naming conventions. Samuel Kilderbee’s grandfather, Francis, had married one Elizabeth, the only daughter of a Suffolk apothecary called Samuel Dover. They named their sons Dover and Samuel. In due course, Elizabeth inherited from her father, and this enabled Francis, a successful draper in Framlingham, to buy some land for his elder son to inherit in his turn. Dover went on to Cambridge and success, but died without issue, and the prosperity passed to his younger brother Samuel, who had taken on the family draper business. Samuel married Alethea Sparrow (we will hear more about the Sparrows later), and they in turn had two sons, Samuel the lawyer, and his brother John, who continued the family business into another generation. Samuel’s wife Mary was the daughter of a landowner Daniel Wayth. They had one son, the Rev. Samuel Kilderbee above, who was renowned for his wit and amusing conversation, and for living beyond his, by now quite substantial, means. Fortunately, the Rev. Samuel married a widow who could contribute to the family coffers, Caroline Waddington, daughter of Samuel Horsey. Their only son, Spencer Horsey Kilderbee, married Lady Louisa Maria Judith Rous, daughter of an Earl, and went on to be an MP under the rather splendid name of Spencer Horsey de Horsey.

Dover Kilderbee and one of the Samuels were subscribers to the first edition of Kirby’s Method of Perspective, and (a) Samuel and John subscribed to the second edition of the Suffolk Traveller.

12 thoughts on “Samuel Kilderbee (1725—1813)

    1. dmelville2012 Post author

      Thank you very much for bringing this auction to my attention. The portrait of Daniel Wayth is No. 715 in Ellis Waterhouse’s Gainsborough catalogue, where he notes, “A receipt, signed by Gainsborough and dated 1 Aug. 1758, for a half-length of Daniel Wayth for 15 guineas was found in a lawyer’s office at Bury St. Edmunds in April 1928”. Clearly the same receipt.
      John Hayes, in his edition of Gainsborough’s letters, says the receipt is “now lost” and is the only evidence for Gainsborough’s prices at this period. He also says that the portrait of Daniel Wayth is “no longer extant”. At least the receipt is no longer lost.

    2. Paul Buttle

      This Bonham’s link above appears to be no longer operational, but this Bonham link:-
      >>>Daniel Wayth (1723-1799) Gentleman Landowner of Great Glemham, Suffolk, who would have been acquainted with Gainsborough through his connections with the Kilderbee family of Ipswich. At the head of the family was Samuel Kilderbee (1725-1813) who had married Wayth’s daughter, Mary<<<<<
      No, surely Mary was the sister of this Daniel Wayth if the dates are correct. I suspect their father was also called Daniel Wayth but the Daniel Wayth Gainsborough painted was the brother-in-law of Sam Kilderbee (1725 – 1813) not his father-in-law.

      1. dmelville2012 Post author

        I believe you are correct. See John Hayes, The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, p. 181. Hayes also has a little more information about the Kilderbees.

        I did a little more digging:
        Samuel Kilderbee (1725-1813) married Mary Wayth daughter of Daniel Wayth. Mary’s father died in 1752 so is not the Daniel referred to in the Gainsborough receipt. Instead, that is his son Daniel, Mary’s brother. The younger Daniel married Mary Rabett in 1758, which would have been an excellent time to have a portrait painted. Daniel Wayth died in 1785; it was his widow Mary who died in 1799.

    1. dmelville2012 Post author

      You are so right. I know that. Kirby was from Wickham Market. I am not sure how I made such an egregious error, let alone how it stayed unnoticed for seven years. Thank you for pointing the mistake out; I shall fix the post.

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  2. Paul Buttle

    Where is information on the Kilderbees obtainable? None are listed in the ODNB. The “History of Parliament” has a page on Spence Horsey Kilderbee – Samuel Kilderbee (1725—1813)’s grandson whom I’m particularly interested in. That is all I’ve found.

    You’ve created a pleasing website. Well done!

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  4. bobbriscoe

    This Google Arts page shows the painting of the son Samuel, with the caption “The Reverend Samuel Kilderbee (1725-1813)”. The “Reverend” is consistent with this blog, but the dates are the father’s. The Google page says Gainsborough painted it in 1758, when the father would have been 33. But it looks more like a young teenager.

    Subsequently, this Wikipedia page shows a painting of the son on the page about the father: It links to the Google Arts page, apparently compounding the Google mistake.

    I’m not in a position to determine what is correct, but I can say those pages are inconsistent with this one, and this one appears correct.


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