Saturday, August 24, 2013

Portrait of the Week - William Stukeley (1687-1765)

British School

This fine gentleman whose portrait hangs in Lydiard House is antiquarian and natural philosopher William Stukeley.

William was born in Holbeach, Lincolnshire in 1687. He worked first as an apprentice clerk in his father's law firm before going on to Corpus Christi College (Bene't) Cambridge to study medicine. Following further study at St Thomas' Hospital, Southwark, William returned to Lincolnshire in 1710 where he practised as a physician in Boston.

By 1717 he was in London again where he gathered about him a circle of eminent friends including Sir Isaac Newton, William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury and Robert Walpole.

In 1722 he founded a new antiquarian society called the Society of Roman Knights whose aim was 'to adorn & preserve the truly noble Monuments of the Romans in Britain, & the truley great & stupendous works of our British Ancestors'... His antiquarian interests saw him travel the length of Hadrian's Wall and he had a particular interest in Wiltshire's two principal stone circles, Avebury and Stonehenge.

Further details of Stukeley's incredible life can be found on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website, but how did a portrait of this gentleman end up in Lydiard House? Records reveal that it was given as a gift in 1966 by Col Edward Richard Gordon St John - so what is the St John link.

William Stukeley married Frances Williamson in 1728 by whom he had three daughters, Frances, Anna and Mary. Eldest daughter Frances Stukeley married Dr Richard Fleming and their daughter Frances Fleming married John Francis Seymour St John in 1788. Her husband was the grandson of John 11th Baron St John of Bletsoe, from the senior branch of the St John family.

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