LOST AND FOUND
On Friday December 21st 1772 Josiah Wedgwood wrote to his partner, Bentley, in London about his concerns for Thomas Anson’s health:
Mr Anson is in a very dangerous way as to his health and I fear cannot live long. He gets little sleep, has constant pain at the pit of his stomach, ie. his Liver. His legs swell and I believe his body likewise. Perhaps it may be of some consequence to our friend Mr Stuart to know Mr Anson’s situation.
(The Selected Letters of Josiah Wedgwood, edited by Ann Finer and George Savage, Cory, Adams and Mackay, 1965, p. 140)
Wedgwood had been continuing to find models for his products in Anson’s collection at Shugborough:
I have taken a few molds from Mr A-s medals to try how they will look. Mr Sneyd thinks a good suit of Historical medals will do as well as anything fore us to form a Cabinet for young gentlemen. Is so Mr Anson’s is an admirable cabinet for us.
Five days later Wedgwood reported from Etruria that Mr Anson was returning to London.
Mr Anson is going in a day or two to Die in London. He says he would rather die there than at Shugborough. His Vases have come here, so he will never see them, and perhaps when he has left Shugborough his sisters will think proper to take them in. However we will send them to day…
(Ibid p. 141)
Thomas travelled back to London. In spite of his ailing condition he continued to entertain at St James Square.
On 5th March 1773 James Harris’s daughter wrote to her brother (originally in French):
We were at a breakfast and a concert this morning at Mr Anson’s. Everything bespeaks good taste; the house is charming and exquisitely appointed, the music is by the best hands in England: in fact it was a total delight.
(Donald Burrows and Rosemary Dunhill, Music and Theatre in Handel’s World. The family papers of James Harris 1732-1780, OUP, 2002)
On the 23rd March 1773 Elizabeth Harris wrote:
Friday at a breakfast and concert at Mr Anson’s at which all the fine world were assembled and all elegant to a degree.
This was, presumably the last concert, but, it seems, not the last music at 15 St James Square. As Thomas Pennant wrote:
He was happy in his life, and happy in his end. I saw him about thirty hours before his death, listening calmly to the melody of the harp, preparing for the momentary transit from an earthly concert to an union with the angelic harmonies.
(Thomas Pennant, The journey from Chester to London, 1811)
On the list of bills paid after his by Thomas’steward, Mr Goodall is:
Hire of a Harp £1-13-6
(Staffordshire Archives D615/P(S)/1/6/54)
Is it purely a coincidence that Anton Kammell’s Op. 9 is a set of six sonatas for harp, with the accompaniment of violin and cello? Could this be the last music Thomas listened to? It is an agreeable conjecture.
Thomas died on 30th March 1773.
Elizabeth Harris, wife of the philosopher James Harris, wrote a revealing obituary of Thomas Anson in a letter to her son on 6th April 1773. This is not quoted in full in Burrows and Dunhill’s book. As a private letter, rather than a published eulogy, this must give a reliable impression of how he was seen by his friends.
Mr Anson’s death is a loss to many, the poor he was charitable to a degree, the artists of all sorts had his protection and partook of his generosity, and all his friends were sharers of his most elegant entertainments. His great fortune comes to Mr Adams his nephew. Both he and Mrs Adams are amiable people and deserve it.
(Hampshire Record Office 9M73/G/260/11. This letter is not printed in full in Burrows and Dunhill. I am grateful to Rosemary Burrows for suggesting I obtain the complete text.)
It seems probable that the extent of his generosity to the poor, and his patronage of “artists of all sorts” will never been known. He does not appear to have indulged in spending his “great fortune” for his own benefit. Even the London House was as much a showcase for the work of Stuart, Kammell, and other artists, rather than a private luxury. Mrs. Harris’s letter also shows that George Adams, who would take the name Anson on inheriting, was known in London and at Shugborough as Thomas’s heir, and, it is reasonable to assume, was already resident at No. 15.
Other accounts paid off by Mr Goodall included:
Mr Goodenough, Coachmaker £15-4-6
Mr Nurse, Bookseller £15-15-6
(John Nourse, 1705-1780, bookseller, of The Strand.
Mr Regenie, Taylor £11-11-6
Mr Wagner, for hats £6-5-6
(Wagner was hatmaker to the King.)
Mr Goodall gave instructions for the funeral. The body was to be carried back to Staffordshire, to be interred at St Michael’s Church, Colwich, leaving London on the Wednesday with the intention of arriving at Wolseley Bridge, near Colwich, at noon on Saturday. The interment would be that evening. There were to be a hearse and a carriage, each with six horses. (But was this for the lengthy journey from London, or just the final short distance from Wolseley Bridge the church?)
If the church is to be in mourning the Pulpitts, the desk and Communion table should be covered with fine Black cloth…
The servants as bearers and the under bearers will meet the corpse at Wolseley Bridge. The bearers will have hatbands and gloves…
Mrs Warren will be allowed 10gns & the other maids 5 pounds each to put themselves into proper mourning.
(Staffordshire Archives, D615/P(S)/1/6/49A)
The corpse was to be buried in linen and the coffin inscription was simply:
The coffin inscription was simply:
Died 30th March 1773
Thomas’s will had specified that there should be no memorial. The family vault is accessed through the choir stalls. It was, presumably, created by Thomas, as the first person to be buried there would have been his father, William Anson. According to the “Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory” of 1818 the vault is “in the form of an Egyptian Catacomb.”
The royal photographer, Patrick, Earl of Lichfield, continued the family tradition by not having any memorial when he was interred in the vault at Colwich. The memorials to George and Elizabeth Anson are 19th century.
In the Staffordshire Record Office there is a list of people who were to receive mourning rings to mark Thomas’s death. The Bagot family still possesses one. They were decorated with pink enamel.
The list is a mixture of family, formal acquaintances and political associates, including colleagues of George Anson, as well as some who were personal friends at the time of his death.
Philip Yorke, 2nd Earl Hardwicke, (1720-1790) son of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, and brother of Elizabeth, Lady Anson.
Jemima, Marchioness Grey, in her own right, (1723-1797), wife of Philip Yorke.
Mr Joseph Yorke (1724-1792)
Brother of Philip Yorke and Elizabeth Anson, diplomat, who had been involved in the curious incident of Count St Germain
Dean of Lincoln
James Yorke, (1730-1808), younger brother of Philip and Joseph.
Sir Charles Saunders (1715-1775)
Mr Goodall, Thomas’s manager, wrote, on April 3rd 1773
When I told Sir Charles Saunders that Mr Anson was no more it shook him so much that I am afraid it will go hard with him.
(Staffordshire Archives, D615/P(S)/1/6/49A)
Robert Adair, sergeant-surgeon to King George III, brother-in-law to Admiral Keppel. He is mentioned in several letters, in some cases in association with Mr (James) Mytton.
Sir Hugh Palliser, (1723-1796), naval officer in the Seven Years War, Admiral and First Naval Lord under the Earl of Sandwich in 1775.
John Campbell, (1720-1790), sailed round the world with George Anson.
Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford (1721-1803), in 1747 one of the two Ms for Lichfield with Thomas Anson.
Thomas Gilbert, (1719-1798) MP for Lichfield from 1768, following Thomas Anson.
Francis Eld (1733-1817) of Seighford, Staffordshire, the nephew of Francis Eld, MP for Stafford until his death in 1760.
John Sneyd, (1734- ) of Bishton, High Sheriff of Staffordshre from 1763
Assheton Curzon, (1730-1820), later Viscount Curzon, of Hagley Park, Rugele where he built ai interesting and extensive grotto which survives but which is currently inaccessible,
Henry Bayly-Paget, 1st Earl of Uxbridge (1744 – 1812). His father,(d,1769) had been deputy lieutenant for Staffordshire.
John Turton, (1688-1774) of Orgreave Hall, High Sheriff of Staffordshire from 1777.
John Mytton, ( – 1784) nephew of James Mytton. cousin of Thomas Pennant, a Dilettanti Society member from1764, grandfather of “Mad Jack” Mytton, huntsman,
Richard Owen Cambridge (1707-1802), poet and satirist and builder of boats, of Richmomd.
Thomas Pennant, (1726-1796), naturalist, antiquarian, nephew of James Mytton.
Augustus Keppel (1725-1786), brother-in-law of Robert Adair.
Miss A Anson
Thomas’s sister, Annette.
James “Athenian” Stuart, (1713-1788), architect and interior designer.
Antonin (Anthony) Kammell, (1730-1784) composer and violinist.
Miss Pigot (?)
Possibly Sophia Pigot, daughter of George Pigot, 1st Baron Pigot, of Patshull Hall, Staffordshire, President of the East India Company.
Sir Wm Wolseley
Sir William Wolsely, (d,1779) of Wolseley Hall, neighbour to Shugbourgh.
Sir Wm Bagot
Sir William Bagot (1728-1798), of Blithfield Hall, to whom Thomas Anson bequeathed his collection of medals, and whose descendants still possess their mourning ring.
Simon Harcourt, (1714-1777), of Nuneham Courtney, one of the early members of the Society of Dilettanti, and a patron of James “Athenian” Stuart.
Robert Orme, (1728-1801), historian of the East India Company, to whom Thomas Anson left £500.
Sir Thomas Parker
Thomas Parker (1695-1784), cousin of the Ansons, in his early legal career a colleague of Philip Yorke, later Earl of Hardwicke, rose to be Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer.
Ld & Ldy Macclesfield
Thomas Parker, 3rd Earl of Macclesfield (1723-1795), son of the Ansons’ cousin. Lady Macclesfield was Mary Heathcote.
Ld & Ldy Vernon
George Venables-Vernon, 1st Baron Vernon (1709-1780), of Sudbury Hall, had been MP for Lichfield before Thomas Anson took the seat in 1747, and was later MP for Derby. His third wife (married 1744) was Martha, a grand-daughter of Lord Harcourt.
One of the mysteries surrounding Thomas Anson is the lack of any certainly identified portrait. The 1730s painting, possibly by Vanderbank, could well be Thomas, but it has no known provenance.
There was, though, a portrait.
Robert Orme, historian of the East India Company, was so moved by the generous legacy of £500 in his old friend’s will that he commissioned a bust of Thomas from the leading artist Nollekens – and one of himself.
To perpetuate the memory of his friend, Mr. Orme had a handsome white marble bust of Mr. A. executed by their mutual friend Nollekens in his best manner, which was conspicuously placed in his library. It was a most admirable likeness; and after Mr. Orme’s death was, by his executor, sent to the representative of Mr. Anson, as the most proper person to preserve such a memento of his ancestor.
(Robert Orme, Historical fragments of the Mogul Empire, F Wingrave, 1805)
This “admirable likeness” would have been made from a death-mask.
What became of it? After Orme’s death it was “sent to the representative of Mr. Anson.” Could it be that this bust, which seemed to have been completely forgotten about, was still at Shugborough?
There were plaster copies made too.
“Nollekens and his Times,” by John Thomas Smith (Colburn, 1829) list the works of the sculptor and notes:
Mr Deville of the Strand, having purchased of Mr Goblet, Mr Nollekens’ principal assistant, the moulds of those busts marked with a (*), the reader will be gratified by knowing, that casts of the may be had as of above, at a very reasonable rate.
The name of Hon. Thomas Anson is one of a fairly small number that is marked with an asterisk. There may be plaster copies in existence, unrecognised.
A few years ago I was in the library at Shugborough telling the National librarian, Harvey James, this story. I immediately looked up and saw marble bust which I had not noticed before. It is extremely life-like, though it does look as if it is from a death-mask. It was an eerie moment. I am sure this is Thomas Anson, hidden in full sight.
This an original. There is a plaster copy at Sudbury Hall, home of Lord and Lady Vernon. (National Trust collections NT 653263) As the Vernons were recipients of mourning rings it seems reasonable to suppose they might have bought a copy of Nollekens’ bust.