Tobias Rustat

The Rev. Tobias Rustat (1716—1793) subscribed to the first edition of Kirby’s Method of Perspective. The Rustat family did not have long ties to Suffolk. The most illustrious ancestor, namesake Tobias Rustat (1608—1694), performed long, loyal, honorable, and lucrative service to the Stuart Kings. He was a servant, at times the only servant, to Charles II on the Continent during Cromwell’s rule, after the Restoration becoming Yeoman of the Robes, among other titles and perquisites.

Figure 1 Tobias Rustat (1608-1694)

He was somewhat unfairly characterized by the diarist John Evelyn as “a very simple, ignorant, but honest and loyal creature”, although Evelyn did not his “wonderful frugality”. Rustat seems to have been shrewd in gaining his fortune and generous in disposing of it. A life-long bachelor, he gave the first endowment to Cambridge University Library, and endowed a number of scholarships for orphans of clergy to attend Jesus College, Cambridge (where his father had gone). When he died at age 85, most of his fortune of some £20,000 was distributed among his various relatives, with a large portion going to a great-nephew, Tobias Rustat (1668—1744). This Tobias settled in Suffolk, at Withersfield, and had fourteen children, eight by his first wife, Mary Towers, and six by his second wife, Frances Tipping, daughter of Rev. Thomas Tipping, Rector of Weston Colville. Our Tobias was the eldest child of Frances Tipping and Tobias.

Young Tobias Rustat was educated at Saffron Walden and Bury St. Edmunds and in due course went up to Cambridge, to Jesus College. He got his BA in 1739, a year behind Laurence Sterne, his MA in 1742, and was a Fellow of the college 1743—1746. He was ordained deacon in 1739, and priest in 1741. He was Rector of Fordham in Cambridgeshire from 1745 to 1754, rather out of Kirby’s orbit. However, in 1748, he was presented with the living of Stutton, near Ipswich, by his uncle Thomas Tipping. He held this last position for the rest of his life, although he did occasionally add others. The Rectory of Stutton would have provided a comfortable living, but Tobias could draw on the resources of his inheritance, and he married an heiress from Devon, Sarah Paige, whose father had died when she was 11, leaving Sarah and her sister each a £12,000 dowry. The Rustats lived well, extended the Rectory, and laid out extensive grounds. They had estates around Suffolk, but no children.

Gainsborough painted Rustat’s portrait in 1756 or 1757, at a time when he had a number of commissions from clergymen, and he also painted Sarah Paige, Mrs. Rustat, a year or two later.


In his will, Tobias left £300 to a godson William Lynch, who was presumably related to the William Lynch we have already mentioned.

We will leave Tobias Rustat with this brief notice of his farming prowess from an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal of 1790:

To be Sold

A Beautiful Black and White BULL, Spotted with great variety of round black spots; of remarkable fine shape and great one; bred from the stock of the Rev. Tobias Rustat of Stutton, long distinguished for his elegant taste for spotted cattle, of every colour as fashion has varied; and for which it is computed by a very accurate calculator, that he has paid Two hundred pounds for spots. The above bull is now two years old, perfectly sound, free from vice, and may be seen at Mr. Joseph Rowe’s, farmer at Tuddenham near Ipswich, who will sell the same.

References

Lewin, P.I. (1989/90). “The Revd Tobias Rustat of Stutton and his family”, Gainsborough’s House Society Annual Report, 35–39.

 

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