John Kirby’s 1736 map of Suffolk was embellished with 129 coats of arms of local nobility, clergy and gentry. Here is the list, in the order they are presented on the map. The list gives a fairly comprehensive snapshot of the landed class at the time. John Blatchly’s John Kirby’s Suffolk: His Maps and Roadbooks has more detail.
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.
Joshua Kirby was a surprisingly well-connected guy, albeit within a fairly limited geographical reach. One example is the Suffolk Members of Parliament. Kirby’s Twelve Prints and accompanying Historical Account were published in 1748. There was an election in 1747, and it is instructive to look at the members returned.
At the time, Suffolk returned two members who represented the county, and there were seven boroughs within the county, each of which also returned two members. Kirby seems not to have had any contacts in Bury St. Edmunds, Dunwich, or Eye, which were further away from Ipswich. However, of the ten politicians representing Suffolk, Aldeburgh, Ipswich, Orford, and Sudbury, fully eight were subscribers. The representatives were:
- Suffolk: Sir Cordell Firebrace, and John Affleck;
- Aldeburgh: William Windham, and Zachary Philip Fonnereau;
- Ipswich: Admiral Vernon, and Samuel Kent;
- Orford: Henry Legge, and John Waldegrave;
Sudbury: Thomas Fonnereau, and Richard Rigby.
The two who did not subscribe were both newcomers to the political scene. Zachary Philip Fonnereau was Thomas Fonnereau’s younger brother; and Richard Rigby was the person sent in from London on the Prince of Wales’ interest.
While some people subscribed as a matter of public duty, and the antiquarian nature of Kirby’s book may have been attractive, others on this list seem to have rarely subscribed. Kirby had corralled quite a collection of subscribers.
In graph theory a clique is a complete subgraph. The term comes from social network theory, and in Kirby’s context means a collection of subscribers all of whom knew each other. Given the intimate nature of Suffolk politics, and the fact that some of these men were politically active for decades, we can assume that they were all acquainted. Kirby’s subscriber graph has an 8-vertex MP clique.
And here is a draft showing the clique with names.
Since we are on the subject of Alexander Bence, I reproduce below a legal notice from the Ipswich Journal of January 1748 on the protection of game in Suffolk. It well illustrates the interconnections between the gentry and better-off people in the fairly small world of the Suffolk countryside, shows the social gulf between classes, and is the first time I met the term “unqualitied persons”. It is also worth noting that no less than ten of the people named in the notice were Kirby subscribers (I have put their names in bold).
Whereas the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Hereford, Sir Robert Kemp, Bart. Sir John Rous, Bart. Sir Charles Blois, Bart. Alexander Bence, Esq; John Rush, Esq; Charles Scrivener, Esq; Reginald Rabett, Esq; Nicholas Jacob, Esq; Thomas World, Esq; John Damer, Esq; Dudley North, Esq; Charles Long, Esq; Thomas Gooch, Esq; Philip Bewster, Esq; and others, have entered into an Agreement and Subscription for the Preservation of the GAME within the Hundreds of Blything, Wangford, Plomsgate and Hoxne, in the County of Suffolk; and for prosecuting by Action, Information, or otherwise such unquality’d as shall offend against all or any of the Statutes made for Preservation of the Game: And by such their Agreement have appointed Peter Pullyn, of Halesworth in the said County, their Attorney and Sollicitor for the Purposes in the said Agreement aforementioned.
These are therefore to certify, That if any Person or Persons will inform against any such unquality’d Person or Persons, who shall take, kill, or destroy in the Night-time, or have in their Possessions any Hares, Pheasants, or Partridges, within the said Hundreds, so as such Person or Persons may be convicted thereof, he or they shall receive of the said Peter Pullyn, on the Conviction of such Person or Persons offending, FIVE POUNDS (over and above the Reward allowed by Act of Parliament) and his or their Name or Names shall not be discovered, unless the Offender or Offenders stand a Tryal at Law, or make Defence to any Indictment or Informations, nor until the Time of such Tryal or Conviction of the Offender or Offenders; And that if any Person or Persons unlawfully take, kill, or destroy and Fish, in any several Rivers or Fishery, or out of inclosed Fish-Ponds within the said Hundreds (without leave of the Owner or Owners thereof) he or they who shall make such Discoveries shall be well rewarded for the same.
N.B. The Subscribers desire all Noblemen and Gentlemen to have their Titles or Names, with the Day of the Month, wrote on the Direction of any Game to be sent by any Stage-Coach, Waggon, Carts, Carriers, or otherwise; they being determined to prosecute the Drivers of such Stage-Coaches, Waggons and Carts, and the Carriers who shall have any Game in their Custodies that have not such Directions upon the Game as aforesaid.
Alexander and Thomas Bence were two of the subscribers to Kirby’s Historical Account. The Bence family had been prominent in Suffolk for a long time. Several relatives had been MPs for Suffolk in the 17th century, their grandfather was four times Bailiff of Aldeburgh, and their uncle John had been High Sheriff in 1665. Alexander and Thomas were brothers, sons of Edmund Bence. The eldest son, John, had died in 1718 and Alexander, as the second son, was senior. He became High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1733, and again in 1742, an event which prompted the London Evening Post (as reported by the Ipswich Journal) to thunder:
But Quare, Whether he is by Law compellable to serve this Office again? If he is, whether it does not become the Wisdom of a free and independent Parliament, to prevent the Subjects of this Kingdom being twice or more harass’d by this burthensome and expensive Office, and to free them from any Ministerial or other undue Influence at any Election?
In contrast to Alexander’s political office, Rev. Thomas Bence was rector of Kelsale with Carleton, “for upwards of 53 years” and of Thorington from 1722, Alexander standing patron for him. Alexander lived at Thorington Hall.
However, Alexander and Thomas were not the only connection of the Bence family with Kirby. Born in the 1670s, they were old men by 1748, and both would die in the 1750s. The eldest brother John had a daughter Mary who married Sir William Barker. They in turn had a son, Sir John Barker, unfortunately orphaned by the time he was seven. Sir John Barker became Sheriff in his turn, and was also a subscriber to Kirby’s Historical Account. Thomas Bence’s daughter Catherine married Gabriel Trusson of Kelsale, and Trusson too was a subscriber. The daughter Anne of another brother, Robert, had married one Robert Sparrow in 1740, and this is presumably the Robert Sparrow who was a subscriber, although the Sparrows were a fairly numerous family.
The full title of Kirby’s Historical Account is An historical account of the twelve prints of monasteries, castles, antient churches, and monuments, in the county of Suffolk which were drawn by Joshua Kirby … and published by him March 26, 1748. The twelve prints in question were those Kirby supposedly prepared for Sir Joseph Ayloffe’s proposed history of Suffolk that never appeared. The prints were engraved by Joseph Wood, an engraver based in Covent Garden. The prints were offered for sale in half sheets at a price of one guinea and were well-received. Felicity Owen quotes George Vertue’s approving comments that they were “well done in drawing and graving in a very neat curious manner”, and that they are “a new improvement in manner and Taste of Engraving upon an equallity every way with the French, Italian or Dutch.” She herself says that the perspective is “almost impeccable”.
In the preface to the accompanying Historical Account, Kirby says:
As several of my Subscribers have desired me to publish a longer Historical Account with my Set of Prints than is usually done with Things of this Nature, and finding that it could not possibly be put under the Prints without spoiling the Uniformity of them, I have collected, from the best Authors, whatever is most remarkable upon these Subjects, and publish’d it by itself.
While the Historical Account is easily available, the prints themselves are less so. Each print has a description and dedicatee. Herewith, as best as I can decipher my notes, is a list of them:
- South-East view of Clare Priory and Castle, Suffolk, to Joseph Barker, Gent.
- North-West view of Sudbury Priory, to Denny Cole, Gent.
- West view of Bungay Castle. William Henry, Earl of Rochford.
- West view of Christ’s Hospital Ipswich. To the worshipful the Bailiffs, the burgesses and common councel men of the corporation of Ipswich.
- South view of St. James’s and the priory church at Bury St. Edmunds, to the worshipful aldermen and burgesses of ye corporation of Bury St. Edmunds.
- South view of Lavenham Church, Suffolk, to the Rt. Revd. Thomas Lord Bishop of Ely Master, and the worshipful fellows of Caius College in Cambridge.
- South view of Blithburgh Church and Priory, to Sir Charles Blois Bart.
- North-West view of Bungay Church and Priory, to Right Reverend Thomas Lord Bishop of Ely.
- The tomb of Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk, to Dr. Roger Long Master of the Wpl. Fellows of Pembroke Hall in Cambridge. [The tomb is in Framlingham Church]
- Tomb of Henry Fitzroy Duke of Richmond and Somerset, to most Noble Charles Duke of Richmond and Lenox. [This tomb is also in Framlingham Church]
- Tomb of Henry Howard Earl of Surry, to the Rev Mr. Ralph Blois. [Also in Framlingham]
- Tomb of Lord Bardolf, to Sir John Rouse Bart. [The tomb is in Dennington Church]
Dedicating the individual plates was a good marketing strategy. Of the dedicatees, Joseph Barker, Sir Charles Blois, Rev. Ralph Blois, Denny Cole, the Rt. Rev. Thomas Lord Bishop of Ely, Rev. Roger Long, Sir John Rouse, and the Earl of Rochford all subscribed, with the Earl taking two sets.
Sir Joseph Ayloffe, 6th (and last) Baronet, of Braxted Magna, Essex, was Kirby’s first patron, and something of a mystery to me. I can’t quite tell whether to celebrate his achievements or see him as a rather sad case of someone who did not have the success he desired. Nor can I see exactly how he and Kirby got together, nor precisely understand his passion for the antiquities of Suffolk.
Ayloffe was born in 1709 as the only son of Joseph Ayloffe, a barrister (lawyer), of Gray’s Inn, London, and Mary Ayliffe. As a child he went to Westminster School and Lincoln’s Inn. He went up to Oxford in 1726, the same year his father died, but left in 1728 without taking a degree. Following his father, he became a barrister in 1730, and that year his unmarried cousin, Sir John Ayloffe, died, and he succeeded to the baronetcy. He married Margaret Railton, a widow, in 1734 and they had one son, Joseph, who died of smallpox in 1756 at Cambridge.
Ayloffe was one of those eighteenth-century passionate antiquarians. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1731, and of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1732; he was also a member of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society. He was appointed clerk to the commissioners for building Westminster Bridge in 1736, and held the post for the 15 years it took for the bridge to be constructed.
Felicity Owen is quite harsh on Ayloffe. She says that he and Kirby met, presumably in the early 1740s, through Kirby’s father’s connections with the Suffolk gentry, although the details are not clear. She characterizes him as someone who “fancied himself as the Montfaucon of England and, like the French savant, was determined to encourage the appreciation of antiquities by publishing their topographical and historical description.” He asked Kirby to make some engravings of Suffolk buildings and monuments to illustrate the intended work, but, “A solicitor, without credentials as a writer, Ayloffe failed to obtain financial backing for his project” and it never appeared. Ayloffe seems to have continued working on the project and had another proposal to publish a history of Suffolk in the 1760s, but once again could not get support. In between he had failed at a number of other projects. He started a review journal, the Universal Librarian, but only one issue appeared. He had a proposal to publish parliamentary debates from before the Restoration, but that did not happen. He had a plan to issue a translation of Diderot’s Encyclopédie, but the first number was mocked so badly that it was the last.
He did have later successes. In 1770, he read a paper to the Society of Antiquaries on the painting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold at Windsor, and that appeared as a book, An historical description of an ancient picture in Windsor Castle in 1773. In 1772, he supervised the opening of the tomb of Edward I in Westminster Abbey and 10 days later he reported on the discoveries to a packed meeting of the Society. His 1774 edition of the Calendars of the ancient charters, and of the Welch and Scotish rolls, now remaining in the Tower of London, completed a task begun by Philip Morant.
The engravings Kirby made for Ayloffe’s abortive history of Suffolk in the 1740s became the basis for his own Historical Account, the book that launched Kirby’s career, and for which Ayloffe headed the subscriber list.
Sir Joseph Ayloffe has a substantive and judicious DNB entry.