Tag Archives: Ipswich

Joshua Kirby – Printseller

The plates for Joshua Kirby’s Twelve Prints of 1748 were engraved by Joseph Wood of Covent Garden. Kirby’s connection with Wood went back several years at this point. In June 1745, he advertised for sale in the Ipswich Journal, “A Curious Print of Mr. Garrick, from an original Painting by Mr. Pond, engrav’d by Mr. Wood,” at a shilling each (cited in Whitley, Gainsborough, 18). Garrick had made his stage debut in Ipswich in 1741, and by 1745 was very well known.

Later, Kirby was to be found selling Hogarth’s prints of Beer Street and Gin Lane.


Whitley, W.T. (1915). Thomas Gainsborough. London: Smith, Elder, & Co.

Cunningham on Tom Peartree

Fulcher gave a richly-detailed anecdote of young Thomas Gainsborough sketching a pear-thief, but where did Fulcher get the story from? While it appears that Fulcher embroidered the story with details of his own invention, it seems that his main source was Allan Cunningham. Cunningham (1784—1842) was a Scottish poet who moved to London in 1810 and in 1829-30 produced The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters,Sculptors, and Architects, the first volume of which included a chapter on Gainsborough. Cunningham’s version contains most of the elements of Fulcher’s. but is somewhat shorter and omits the embellishment of the summer-house.

On one occasion he was concealed among some bushes in his father’s garden, making a sketch of an old fantastic tree, when he observed a man looking most wistfully over the wall at some pears, which were hanging ripe and tempting. The slanting light of the sun happened to throw the eager face into a highly picturesque mixture of light and shade, and Tom immediately sketched his likeness, much to the poor man’s consternation afterward, and much to the amusement of his father, when he taxed the peasant with the intention of plundering his garden, and showed him how he looked. Gainsborough long afterward made a finished painting of this Sudbury rustic—a work much admired among artists—under the name of Tom Peartree’s portrait.

See Also:

Fulcher on Tom Pear Tree

Thicknesse on Pear Tree.


Cunningham, A. (1829). The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and architects. London: J. Murray

Fulcher, G.W. (1856). Life of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.

Thicknesse on Pear Tree

One of Thomas Gainsborough’s early paintings was of a man leaning on the top of a wall. Now known as Tom Pear Tree, the painting is at Ipswich.

There are several anecdotes about this painting, and maybe we’ll give more later, but for now here is Philip Thicknesse’s version. The irascible Thicknesse, who modestly claimed to be “the first man who perceived, though through clouds of bad colouring, what an accurate eye he possessed, and the truth of his drawings, and who dragged him from the obscurity of a Country Town”, wrote a biography of Gainsborough shortly after his death. In true Thicknessian fashion, about half the biography is devoted to a portrait of Thicknesse that Gainsborough never finished. Here is how Thicknesse relates his first encounter with Gainsborough’s work.

Soon after his [Gainsborough’s] remove to Ipswich I was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Land Guard Fort, not far distant, and while I was walking with the then printer and editor of the Ipswich journal, in a very pretty town garden of his, I perceived a melancholy faced countryman, with his arms locked together, leaning over the garden wall, I pointed him out to the printer, who was a very ingenious man, and he with great gravity of face, said the man had been there all day, that he pitied him, believing he was either mad, or miserable. I then stepped forward with an intention to speak to the mad man, and did not perceive, till I was close up, that it was a wooden man painted upon a shaped board. Mr. Creighton (I think that was the printer’s name) told me I had not been the only person this inimitable deception had imposed upon, for that many of his acquaintance had been led even to speak to it, before they perceived it to be a piece of art, and upon finding the artist himself lived in that town, I immediately procured his address, visited Mr. Gainsborough, and told him I came to chide him for having imposed a shadow instead of a substance upon me.

He came to chide, but stayed to praise, and later commissioned Gainsborough to paint a view of Land Guard Fort.

See also:

Fulcher on Tom Pear Tree.

See William Lynch.


Thicknesse, Philip. 1788. A sketch of the life and paintings of Thomas Gainsborough.

Samuel Pallant

Samuel Pallant was an Ipswich lawyer who subscribed to Kirby’s Historical Account. As far as I can discover, this was the only book to which he subscribed.

A Samuel Pallant was articled to Robert Hamby in 1738.  Pallant’s name appeared regularly in the Ipswich Journal acting as a letting or sales agent for a variety of (often substantial) farms, pubs, and houses from 1742 onwards for twenty years. Making a few heroic assumptions, he was probably a son of the Samuel Pallant who married Elizabeth Newson in April 1713. Samuel Pallant the father is then most likely the voter from Halesworth in the 1727 poll. In 1743, Samuel Pallant advertises a stand of timber available from his land in Halesworth, then in 1748 he advertises a cattle fair there for the benefit of farmers from Norfolk, where fairs were banned because of ‘distemper’ among the cattle. Finally, in 1749, Rook-Yard farm in Halesworth, “now in the occupation of Samuel Pallant” for an annual rent of £110, was advertised to let. It seems likely that the father farmed the land in Halesworth and the son was an attorney in Ipswich, living on Brook Street.

The younger Samuel Pallant married Elizabeth Starling in 1739 before she died in 1743, possibly in childbirth. He then married Mary Hammond, a widow of Ipswich. A John Pallant, son of Samuel of Ipswich, was apprenticed in 1767, which presumably would make him a child of the second marriage. Of other children I know nothing, although a Samuel Pallant was articled to Samuel in 1756, and a Richard in 1762.

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.

Philips Colman

Philips Colman subscribed to Kirby’s Historical Account. He was a substantial Ipswich gentleman, and elected High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1746. Unfortunately, I know little about him. He was born about 1710 and died in 1779, presumably the offspring of Francis Coleman and Elizabeth Phillips, who married in Ipswich in 1709. He attended Cambridge, married Elizabeth Montagu, and is buried with the Philips family in Ipswich. He was a Portman of Ipswich and his father, Francis Colman was bailiff of Ipswich several times. Francis Colman left some property to charity when he died, and this is probably behind the fact that Philips Colman subscribed for six copies of Canning’s Ipswich Legacies. In the Ipswich Journal he appears frequently in relation to letting and selling farms and buildings, but not a lot otherwise.

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.