William Wollaston

William Wollaston (1693—1757) subscribed to Kirby’s Historical Account. At one time a fabulously wealthy family, the Wollastons made their money in the wool trade and bought Finborough Hall in Suffolk for £10000 in the 1650s, although this was not their primary residence. Wollaston’s father, also William (1660—1724), however was a schoolteacher and philosopher, who tried to suppress his own writings. His most popular work, Religion of Nature Delineated, was only published shortly before his death, but quickly sold ten thousand copies and went through many editions. By living a quiet life, he drew the attention of his cousin William Wollaston, who had inherited the bulk of the estates, had no surviving sons, and was much irritated by importunate relatives. He left pretty much everything to the retired schoolteacher when he died in 1688. Leslie Stephen has a lovely article on the father William Wollaston in the old DNB.

Our William Wollaston lived at Finborough Hall and became MP for Ipswich in 1733 running unopposed in a by-election to replace the deceased former MP. Returned in the 1734 election, he served until 1741, being then replaced by Edward Vernon. In 1730, William Hogarth painted a conversation piece of the Wollaston family.

William Wollaston married Elizabeth Fauquier, whose father was governor of the Bank of England, and together they had eight children. In 1739, he had four of his children inoculated against smallpox, with the Ipswich Journal reporting that they were ‘in a fair way of Recovery’.  His eldest surviving son, William (1731-1797) was himself MP for Ipswich from 1768 to 1784. An amateur musician, he also gave Thomas Gainsborough two important commissions shortly before Gainsborough moved to Bath. One is this portrait:

The other is Gainsborough’s first (surviving) full-length.

Rosenthal (1999) suggests that the two portraits were intended to hang in Gainsborough’s new picture room in Bath to show how successfully he could catch a likeness, the two paintings being recognizably of the same person.

For more on Suffolk MPs, see A Clique of Politicians.

Oddly enough, a Wollaston is currently a member of parliament.

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3 thoughts on “William Wollaston

  1. Pingback: Edward Vernon | Kirby and his world

  2. Charles Wollaston

    Sarah Wollaston is not related though. Her family came to the UK from Poland and changed their name to Wollaston.

    Reply

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