Theodore Eccleston

Theodore Eccleston subscribed for two set of Kirby’s Twelve Prints and Historical Account, and continued to support Kirby with a subscription to the first edition of Method of Perspective. The Ecclestons were from London, but Theodore’s father John had married into the Harwood family (also Quakers) who had property in Crowfield, Suffolk, north of Ipswich, and Theodore is identified as living at Crowfield Hall, although he retained property in Mortlake that had been in the family on his father’s side.

Theodore Eccleston’s grandfather, also called Theodore had been a prominent Quaker divine in the seventeenth century. His father, John, was a substantial merchant and became a director of the East India Company. Richard How was a partner in their business. When she was fifteen in 1725, Theodore’s sister Isabella eloped with the coachman, John Everard, who married her falsely claiming that she was over 22. The couple ran away to the Netherlands, secretly aided by Richard How, while her father searched for the couple. Everard was declared an outlaw, and Isabella’s inheritance forfeited, but the property she inherited was held for her younger brother, Theodore, who was only 10 when she ran away. The couple stayed abroad for several hard years before slipping back into England and being set up in the North, away from her father.

Theodore himself was a noted campanologist, and was an early member of the bell-ringing society, the Ancient Society of College Youths. He gave a full peal of ten bells to the church at Stonham Aspall nearby, although the tower had previously only accommodated five bells and had to be remodeled. In 1746, he intended two bells for the church at Mortlake, but the tower there could not hold them and they ended up in Fulham, where they brought the tower up to full peal of ten bells.

Theodore’s passion for bell-ringing suggests he was no longer actively a Quaker, although he maintained ties with local Quakers. He had a horse “stolen or strayed” while visiting a friend in 1740, and a saw stolen from a saw-pit at his house in 1747, for which he offered a guinea reward. He had one son, who died young. He was clearly reconciled with his sister, whatever his father’s objections had been, and in his will of 1753 he provided £100 for each of her then-living six children (she had several miscarriages and may have lost other children – she had named the first Theodore) and a further £100 (each) to any children of her then-current pregnancy. Theodore’s executor, who also received the bulk of his estate, was Samuel Alexander, a Quaker, who in his turn passed on his fortune to a nephew who was one of the Alexanders who were bankers in Ipswich. Among other he also gave bequests to John Anstis, and the Rev. Henry Anstis, to whom he rather charmingly also left “all my Angling rods”. Clearly an avid fisherman, he also left three peter boats to a Capt. John Cooksly.

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  1. Pingback: Catherine Jacomb | Kirby and his world

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