A gallery of artists

I was unable to find a collective noun for a group of artists. So may I suggest a gallery of artists. Why? Recently I was adding some distant leaves to my family tree and stumbled upon William Frederick Friend (1820-1891). William was husband of Elizabeth Mary Whiting (1816-1885), sister-in-law of my distant cousin Mary Alice Knight (1820-1873) who had married Elizabeth’s brother William George Francis Whiting (1817-1882) in 1863. The census returns revealed that Friend was an artist, and a Google search showed that he produced many admired watercolours in Britain and in North America. However I could find no significant biographical details for him. As ever my curiosity was aroused, so I dug a little deeper. It transpired that he was, by marriage, only one member of an extended family of artists working during the 18th and 19th centuries, some virtually unknown and others highly regarded. This is what I found :

William Frederick Friend was baptized in Canterbury, Kent on 11th June 1820, the second child and only son of Charles Alexander Friend (1789-c.1835), co-owner of a business transporting goods on a barge, and his wife Mary Austin (c.1793-1868) who after her husbands death ran a lodging house in Canterbury and later in Deptford. William’s surviving sister Marian, who lived with her widowed mother, was recorded as a Straw Bonnet Maker in 1841 ; a Bookseller and Stationer in 1861 ; and a Lace Maker after her mother’s death. She died unmarried in 1889. William must have displayed a talent for art from an early age, for it enabled him to marry well despite his humble beginnings. On 19th November 1848 at St.Pancras Parish Church in London he married Elizabeth Mary daughter of Joshua Whiting (d.1817) ‘esquire’ of Midhurst in Sussex by his wife Elizabeth Sarah Spencer (d. 1867). A witness to William and Elizabeth’s marriage was Martin Henry Lewis Gaetano Colnaghi (d.1851), a printseller and member of the well-known Colnaghi family of London art dealers. Less than three years later at the time of the 1851 census, William and Elizabeth were residing at 4 Robert Street near Regent’s Park in London. He gave his occupation as “Artist (Landscape)” and they had a one year old son born in London.

Three other children were to follow. A daughter was born near Regents Park in 1853, probably at 4 Robert Street, and another in Folkestone, Kent in 1857. However I could find no trace of this family in the 1861 census. As I mentioned earlier, Friend was active as an artist not only in Britain but also in North America, thus it is possible that he was working there and may even have painted his fine paintings of Niagara Falls (acquired by the Royal Collection in 1865) around this time. A son was born in Hastings, Sussex in 1863. And by 1871 the family could be found lodging on (Marine) Parade in Hythe, Kent. Elizabeth died aged 61 at 96 Lancaster Road in Notting Hill on 23rd December 1877. The widower William can be found lodging along with their elder daughter in South Terrace, Littlehampton, Sussex in 1881. It was there that he settled, and died at Frankfort House in his 70th year on 6th January 1891.

Now a look at William and Elizabeth’s four children :

The eldest child, William Charles Friend was born in London in 1850 and was an Accountant’s Clerk in 1871. He went on to be a Brewery Valuer by 1891 and a Chartered Accountant by 1901. He died unmarried at the ripe old age of 92 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent on 17th March 1942.

The second child was Elizabeth Ann Friend, born on 17th November 1853 at 4 Robert Street near Regent’s Park. After her mother’s death she appears to have taken care of her father in Littlehampton. Latterly she lived at 30 Arundel Road and died unmarried on the 2nd July 1897, being buried at Littlehampton Cemetery five days later.

The third child and younger daughter was Mary Margaret Friend, born in Folkestone, Kent and baptized there on the 30th August 1857. In 1878 in Lewisham she married Philip Henry Norman (1843-1894), a commercial clerk who latterly resided at Folkestone in Kent, where he died in 1894. Mary died in 1900 in Tunbridge Wells.

The youngest child was Francis Gregory Friend, born in Hastings on 13th March 1863. He was able to lead the comfortable idle life of a ‘fundholder’. On 28th June 1894 in Horsham, Sussex he married Kate Augusta (1891-1915) daughter of Mark Anthony Anscombe (1847-1928), variously employed as a draper, brewer’s traveller and self-employed greengrocer, by his wife Mary Ann Rowland (1850-1895). The couple had two surviving daughters, Olive Frances Friend born in Littlehampton in 1895 and Edna Augusta Friend, born in Worthing in 1906. Both daughters were to marry. Francis died in Littlehampton on 3rd January 1924.

A name that appeared on a couple of census returns concerning the Friend family was that of Blanche Annie Rosa Spencer (1853-1929). Described as a ‘cousin’, Blanche’s baptismal record from All Saints church in Camden Town, shows that she was a daughter of another artist, the virtually unknown William Frederick Spencer (1817-1890) by his wife Ann Eliza Davids (1813/4-1895). It would probably be fair to say that while Spencer may have been a capable artist, he was probably more of a gentleman who could afford to dabble in art rather than a gifted artist who laboured out of necessity. However, a look at his roots led me to uncover the most famous members of this gallery of artists :

William Frederick Spencer was the son of Henry Spencer (1785-1850’s) who was a brother of Elizabeth Sarah Spencer noted earlier. For the record, Henry and Elizabeth Sarah’s parents were the oil merchant Christopher Spencer (c.1737-1807) and his second wife Elizabeth Collier (d.1826). William Frederick’s mother was Ann Phillis Beechey (c. 1794-1883), a sister of the famous Naval Officer and Hydrographer Frederick William Beechey (1796-1856) ; the portrait painter George Duncan Beechey (1797-1852) ; and the Naval Officer and Marine Painter Richard Brydges Beechey (1808-1895). And let us not forget her eldest half-brother the Painter and Explorer Henry William Beechey (1788/9-1862). All these being children of the celebrated portrait painter Sir William Beechey (1753-1839). And the mother of the former four was Sir William’s second wife Anne Phyllis Jessop 1764-1833), herself a noted painter of miniatures. All these Beechey’s were memorable enough to make it into the Dictionary of National Biography.

That’s enough for now, although somehow I get the feeling I may only have scratched at the surface of this interwoven gallery of artists!



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