Tag Archives: Harkstead

Richard Canning

The Revd Richard Canning (1708—1775) was a Suffolk clergyman, and author of several books. He was the (anonymous) author of An account of the gifts and legacies that have been given and bequeathed to charitable uses in the town of Ipswich; with some account of the present state and management and some proposals for the future regulation of them, published in Ipswich in 1747. This was not a completely disinterested account, as a careful parsing of the title shows. Back in 1743, a commission had been set up to investigate the various charitable donations that had been given to be used in Ipswich, and to check that the conditions of these donations were being properly fulfilled. Clearly, such an investigation would be unnecessary unless there was a sense, in certain quarters, that there was a certain amount of misdirection going on. The investigation was partly an attack on the current political powers in Ipswich. Canning collected 113 subscribers, mostly from local people, among them Kirby. Canning himself took six copies of the book, as did his friend Rev. Henry Hubbard.

Canning was actually born in Plymouth, but moved to Suffolk at a young age when his father retired to Ipswich after a career as a naval commander. He went to Westminster School, and on to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1729, and gaining a master’s degree from Peterhouse in 1735. He married Cordelia Westhorp in 1739 and they had two children, a son Richard, and a daughter Cordelia. Canning’s wife died in 1751, but he never remarried. His first clerical appointment was as curate at St Lawrence, Ipswich, in 1734, and he gradually gathered other livings, maintaining a plurality of up to four at times.

According to his DNB article, “Canning was a pillar of Anglican life in Suffolk, and a leading member of the clerical, literary, and musical circles to which the young Thomas Gainsborough belonged until he left for Bath in 1759”. Gainsborough painted a portrait of Canning about 1757.

(This picture is from The Art Fund, and is reversed).

Canning gave the picture to Henry Hubbard, and in return, Hubbard had his own portrait done by Gainsborough and gave it to Canning. Hubbard’s portrait is very similar, but he is facing the other way (i.e., to the right, whereas Canning is looking to the left).

Canning also appears to have been the editor who prepared the much revised and enlarged 1764 second edition of John Kirby’s Suffolk Traveller, although a number of other people also had a hand in the work.

Canning’s DNB article is here.