Tag Archives: Suffolk Traveller

John Kirby

Joshua Kirby was one of a dozen children of John Kirby (c. 1690 – 1753) and Alice (Brown) Kirby (ca. 1685—1766). Not much is known about Kirby’s father’s background. He is supposed to have been a schoolmaster at some point, and when Kirby was growing up was a miller in Wickham Market, Suffolk. More importantly for Joshua Kirby’s future development was his father’s sideline as a topographer, drawing up plans of estates for the local gentry. This business took him around the county and developed his contacts with the wealthier members of society.

John Kirby by Gainsborough

In the 1730s, John Kirby made a survey of the whole of Suffolk, which resulted in a large-scale map of the county (at a scale of 1″ to a mile), and accompanying book, the Suffolk Traveller, describing all the towns and important places of the county together with the distances by road between each place.

The map, engraved on four large plates, cost 10 shillings, and the book came free with the map. To help cover the costs of the survey and production of the book and map, which took several years, Kirby raised money by subscription, building a large network of agents who could take in subscriptions for him. A subscriber put half the money down, and paid the balance on receipt of the map and book. Another device Kirby used to gain interest and subscriptions was to engrave the coats of arms of local nobility and gentry on the map – eventually he had over 120 arms depicted.

The contacts John Kirby made in Suffolk, and the technique of raising money though subscription, were subsequently used by Joshua Kirby in furthering his own career.

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.