Category Archives: Ipswich

The Edgar Family

The Edgars were a prominent, and extensive, Suffolk family. William Edgar, Robert Edgar, and Meleson [Mileson] Edgar all subscribed to Kirby’s Historical Account, and Mileson and Robert subscribed to the first edition of Method of Perspective. The patriarch of the Ipswich branch was Thomas Edgar (c. 1602 – 1692), Recorder of Ipswich and Reader of Grey’s Inn. He married Mary Poule, who herself lived to be 80, and they had 10 children. Of these, only two, Thomas, and Devereux, had children. The son Thomas (1646—1677) became a barrister and died of smallpox. He married Agatha Mileson, and among their children was a son, Mileson Edgar (1673—1713), who was also a lawyer. Mileson married Alice Shaw and had a son, Mileson, and two daughters, Alice and Agatha. This son Mileson married twice, the second time to someone from the D’Eye family, but her first name is not recorded. This Mileson probably died around 1747, so the subscriber to the Historical Account could be either him, or his son Mileson, but the Method of Perspective subscriber is certainly the son. Mileson Edgar (III) was born about 1728 and went up to Cambridge in 1747 and died in 1770, leaving a collection of children, including another Mileson. So far we have only taken care of one subscriber. Going back to Thomas the elder, we look at the other branch of the family via his son Devereux. Devereux Edgar (1651—1739) owned extensive estates in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and Essex. He married Temperance Sparrow their eldest son was Robert Devereux Edgar (1682—1750). Robert Edgar studied at Queen’s College, Cambridge, was a member of Gray’s Inn and was High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1747, the year before Lamb Barry. He is probably the subscriber Robert. Robert Edgar married Elizabeth Harrington, and they had children Robert, Elizabeth and Katharine. This Edgar branch were important patrons of Gainsborough, and he painted portraits of (at least) all three children, and Robert’s wife Susannah Gery. Most of these portraits are in private hands and their whereabouts are unknown, but the portrait of Elizabeth Edgar was sold at Christie’s in 2001. The Edgar family also possessed a number of Gainsborough landscapes. I am still not sure exactly where William Edgar comes into the picture. It was a widespread family. He is probably the William Edgar of Glemham Magna, but Edgars are recorded there since the 1200s. The Ipswich and Glemham Magna branches split at least a generation before the first Thomas Edgar. One other intriguing connection comes through an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal for 8 July 1749 offering a house to let in Ipswich and directing interested parties that “For further Particulars enquire of Mrs. Edgar of Wickham-Market, or Joshua Kirby, Painter, in Ipswich”. I will end with a report of a long-forgotten good deed by Mileson Edgar (II) from 1736. From the Ipswich Journal is this announcement, datelined Trimly, Nov. 1, 1736:

Whereas my Son and my Nephew were out a Coursing at Nacton, one Day last Week; with Milleson Edgar, Esq; and in their return Homeward, were seen by Mr. Stebbing, as they were beating a Field there (with a Hare in their Custody, which was given them by Mr. Edgar) upon which Mr. Stebbing made Information, upon Oath, against my Son and my Nephew, before one of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace. I RICHARD WOODTHORP do, in this Publick Manner, give my humble Thanks to Milleson Edgar, Esq, for his very generously paying the Ten Pound Penalty, that was this Day, upon their Conviction, levied upon them. I shall in another manner, acknowledge my Obligation to the R—- Informer, for the great Pains he has taken, and going to much out of his Way, to reclaim the Youths from the crying Sin of Hare Slaying.            RICHARD WOODTHORP.

Alice Kirby

When Gainsborough moved back to Suffolk from London, he painted a number of portraits of the Kirby family, including this extraordinary one of Joshua Kirby’s mother, Alice, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Alice Brown was born about 1685, married John Kirby in 1714 and had about a dozen children, not all of whom survived. She died in 1766. The exact date of the portrait is not known, but it was probably painted around 1752-5. Gainsborough painted a companion portrait of Kirby’s father, who died in 1753.

Gerrard Oldroyd

Gerrard Oldroyd subscribed to Kirby’s Historical Account in 1748. As far as I know, that is the only book he subscribed to. A “Mr. Oldroyd” subscribed to Canning’s Ipswich Legacies, but that may not be the same person. John and Thomas Oldroyd voted in the 1741 Ipswich election and John voted for Ipswich Bailiffs in 1754. Oldroyd is an elusive figure, and what little I know about him is gleaned from newspaper advertisements. Herewith is his sad story. He first appears in 1740 as a fishmonger in Ipswich, running an ad in the Ipswich Journal for several weeks.


In the Thorough-Fare, Ipswich.

SELLS RED HERRINGS of all Sorts, as Fatt Herrings, Herrings of the Night, Tanters, Plucks, &c by the Barrel, as cheap as any Person in London.

The next year he ran another series of ads: “Sells red herrings of all sorts, by wholesale, at the very lowest price”. Perhaps the red herrings were a distraction, because by 1742, they are reduced to a sideline, and his advertisement runs:

To be SOLD,

By GERRARD OLDROYD, in the Thorough-Fare, Ipswich,

PLOUGH BREASTS, and other Irons of Malleable cast Iron, so soft as not easily to be broke, and yet hard enough to last twice the Time of any wrought Breast; the Price less than the worst ever cast. If any Breast break in Six Months from the Time of Sale, it shall be exchanged without any Expence. The Maker has obtained the King’s Patent for making several Sorts of Wares of this Mettle, which exceed any Thing of the Kind in England. Proper Allowance will be given to any Person that takes a Quantity to sell again.

N.B. He Likewise sells all Sortt of Red Herrings, viz. Meat Herrings, Fat Herrings, Herrings of the Night, Pluck and Tanters, and Fine Pickled Herrings in Firkins, at 14s. per Firkin.

In May of 1743, he has a new line: “Just Imported, by Mr. Gerrard Oldroyd in Ipswich, German Spaw Water, in Large Flasks, at Ten Shillings per Dozen”. In December 1743, he is declared bankrupt, described as a “Tin-plate worker and chapman”. There are a couple of announcements in the London Gazette about his proceedings for his bankruptcy hearings, but things seem to move along slowly. In 1748, he is forced to sell his house, describing himself as a Brazier: It appears to be a substantial building. The ad ran for several weeks before Lady Day (March 25), but it did not find a taker. In April came the following ad:

To be LETT and Entered upon immediately, A Messuage or Dwelling-House and Shop, both very neatly fitted up and well situated, with the Yards, Garden, and Appurtenances thereunto belonging, in the Town of Ipswich, near the Corn-Hill there, as the same now are in the Occupation of Mr. Gerrard Oldroyd, Brasier, who has left off Trade.

For further Particulars enquire of the said Mr. Oldroyd; or of Mr. John Preston, Attorney at Law, in Ipswich.

N.B. As Advertisements have been continued in this paper so long a Time, for the Out-standing Debtors of the said Mr. Oldroyd to come in and pay their respective Debts to him, and very few have taken any Notice thereof:—All the Outstanding Debtors are therefore hereby required to take Notice, That no personal Application will be made to any of them, but that Mr. Oldroyd has left his Books and Accomp’s in the Hands of the said Mr. Preston, who has positive Orders to bring Actions against all such as shall neglect or refuse to pay such their respective Debts to the said Mr. Oldroyd, or Mr. Preston, on or before Wednesday next; that being the longest Time Mr. Oldroyd proposes staying in the Country.

The sad note of the “left off trade”.  In passing, I note that John Preston was himself a Kirby subscriber. In June 1748, there was an announcement of an auction of his household goods, listing some and noting, “Catalogs will be delivered gratis”. Finally, in September 1748, came this announcement:

To be LETT and Entered upon immediately, A Good House and Shop, late in the Occupation of Mr. Gerrard Oldroyd, Brazier, near the Cornhill in Ipswich, consisting of four Rooms on a Floor, in good Repair, well fitted up for a Tradesman. For particulars enquire of Mr. Thomas Folkard, Ironmonger, in Ipswich aforesaid.

With that final notice, Gerrard Oldroyd fades from view.

Edward Vernon

The Hon. Edward Vernon, Esq, subscribed to Kirby’s Historical Account. As the “Hon.” indicates, he was at the time an MP, representing Ipswich. Although not originally from Suffolk, he had bought an estate at Nacton, a few miles southeast of Ipswich and built a house there. Vernon was a naval and political man, more celebrated, and more voluble, than Ellis Brand. Edward Vernon (1684—1757) was the second son of James Vernon, who had been Secretary of State under William III. Born in Westminster, he attended Westminster school, studying mathematics and astronomy along with the usual languages. In 1700, Vernon began his naval career as a volunteer on the Shrewsbury, which sounds modest enough, until you discover that the Shrewsbury was the flag-ship of Admiral Sir George Rooke. Vernon rose ranks rapidly, becoming a captain in 1706, by which time he was in the Mediterranean with Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s fleet and had been present at the capture of Barcelona. On their return to England, several ships, including Admiral Shovell’s flagship, were wrecked off the Isles of Scilly and a couple of thousand men, including Admiral Shovell, were lost. With his own command, Vernon was no longer on the flagship and survived. By 1708, he had been sent to support Commodore Charles Wager’s squadron in the Caribbean, arriving just too late to take part in Wager’s Action. Vernon continued to advance and by 1719 was commander-in-chief of his majesty’s ships at Jamaica. England was at war with Spain, and much Spanish treasure flowed through the Caribbean, but Vernon did not see much action at this point. Back in England, Vernon was elected MP for the first time in 1722, as member for Penryn in Cornwall (his father had held this seat several times earlier). Vernon’s father died in 1717, and in 1729 he married Sarah Best. They would have three sons, all of whom, sadly, died young. By this time, Vernon had bought his estate at Nacton and settled as a Suffolk gentleman, his fractious nature and intemperate language having caused a break in his political career. In 1739 he returned to naval service and was sent out to the West Indies just as war again broke out with Spain (the War of Jenkins’ Ear). Soon after his arrival, he led the successful attack on the town of Porto Bello. Porto Bello was a small town, but the port through which all Spanish silver from Peru passed. When the news reached England, there was massive celebrating. The restrained DNB records,

The rejoicing went far beyond the usual celebrations of victory. Vernon became a national hero almost overnight. Both houses of parliament voted their thanks and the City of London made him a freeman. Addresses of congratulations came to the king from across the country. His popular appeal was immense. Medals, pottery, road names, and public house signs bore the name Vernon or Porto Bello and his birthday became a day of celebration across the country.

Mount Vernon was also named after him. Vernon’s next target was Cartagena. He launched a massive amphibious assault, the troops being commanded by Major-General Thomas Wentworth. Such an assault against a heavily-fortified position was a race against time – as men who succumbed to wounds or disease could not be replaced. Despite initial successes, the attack failed as disease took its toll. A later attempt against Panama fared no better. Vernon and Wentworth did not get along, and Vernon, in his dispatches and private letters, attempted to discredit Wentworth. Despite his failure, Vernon was still popular in England and, on his return in late 1742, he found he had been elected MP for Ipswich while away. In 1745 he was promoted to Admiral, but his fractious nature, intemperate language and leaked correspondence with the Admiralty caused the King to have him struck off the flag list in 1746. He rumbled away in parliament, but his influence was waning. Horace Walpole acidly described him as, “a silly, noisy admiral … his courage was greater than his sense, his reputation was much greater than his courage”. Vernon was always concerned about the health of sailors and his other claim to fame stems from diluting their daily ration of rum with water and then ordering the addition of lime juice to counter the bad taste of the water. Although the benefits of citrus at sea were not fully understood at the time, his sailors were healthier than average, and suffered much less from scurvy.  Vernon’s nickname was `Old Grog’ from his habit of wearing a of a grogram coat, and the sailors gave the name to the new drink. Gainsborough painted Admiral Vernon around 1753; the portrait is now in the National Portrait Gallery collection. For more on Admiral Vernon, start at his Wikipedia page, or DNB entry. For more details on the ships he commanded, see the wonderful site. Admiral Vernon was preceded as MP for Ipswich by William Wollaston