In the autumn of 1744, my great great great great grandfather Henry West married his fiancée Elizabeth Louch* at St Benets Paul’s Wharf in the City of London. [1] Henry had acquired property and wealth at Kew due to a canny business venture, entertaining the artistic and literary elite at The Swan Tavern on the island in the Thames opposite Kew Palace. On his death, Henry bequeathed all of his estate to his wife Elizabeth and their children with the exception of some land given to his friend John Haverfield junior:

“And I give and devise unto John Haverfield the Younger of Kew in the County of Surry aforesaid Esquire all that Copyhold half acre of Ozier ground part whereof now used as a Garden situate lying and being in the Isle or Ayte of the River Thames within the Manor of Richmond.”

Henry was keen, however, to see that Elizabeth was further supported following his death and asked Haverfield ‘to permit and suffer my loving wife Elizabeth West and her assigns to have take and receive the rents issues and profits thereof and of every part and parcel thereof for and during the term of her natural life’. [2] Haverfield surrendered Henry’s bequest to Elizabeth and she was free to do with the land as she pleased.

‘Miss Haverfield’ by Gainsborough courtesy of the Wallace Collection

The Haverfield family were originally from the west country, but had moved to Twickenham in the early half of the 18th century and later leased a large house on the east side of Kew Green when their fortunes began to swell. In 1759, Lord Bute recommended to Princess Augusta, the surveyor John Haverfield senior for the position of superintendent at Richmond Pleasure Gardens. Haverfield took charge after Capability Brown had reconstructed the gardens and jointly assumed control with his son John junior in 1762. With no pension provision forthcoming, Haverfield the elder continued in the role until his death at the age of ninety. [3] Following the loss of his father, John junior took sole charge of the gardens, but only for two years until he developed his own business as a landscape gardener. One of his clients was Sir John Soane for whom he remodelled the gardens at Pitshanger Manor in Ealing and in partnership, made frequent visits to Tyringham Hall in Buckinghamshire, a green domed country house designed by Soane. Between 1804 and 1812 Haverfield made extensive alterations to the grounds at Walsingham Abbey in Norfolk and continued to reside at Kew until his death in about 1820.

He had at least three children with his wife Elizabeth, John who became a Lieutenant Colonel, Robert Tunstall named after his brother-in-law and a daughter Elizabeth Anne born about 1776. Sometime around 1780 Thomas Gainsborough painted John Haverfield’s daughter and created one of the most celebrated paintings of the eighteenth century.

Gainsborough never resided at Kew, except on occasional visits to his sister, but he had a close long term friendship with the landscape painter John Joshua Kirby, who had lived at Kew from 1760 and together with his wife Sarah Kirby, was painted by Gainsborough in the early 1750s. The commission to paint Elizabeth Haverfield must have occurred some eight years prior to Gainsborough’s death from cancer in 1788, and the finished work remained in the Haverfield Kew residence until at least 1850. Gainsborough requested to be buried in a modest tomb in Kew churchyard near his friend Kirby.

Elizabeth Anne Haverfield married the Reverend James Wyld circa 1794 [4] had two children, Elizabeth Tunstall Wyld and Diana Mary Wyld [5]; she died 14 September 1817 aged 41 at Blunsdon St Andrew, Wiltshire. [6] The rosy cheeked, carefree little girl was captured during a period in Gainsborough’s life when he was experimenting with a looser more fluid style. For that reason the painting is hugely significant.

[*Elizabeth West formerly Louch died after 1793 having surrendered her share in the Swan Tavern to Thomas Samuel Maycock. The Louch surname is not a common one in west London and evidence suggests the family were probably from Hampshire. Amazingly they appear to cross paths with a certain Jane Austen; that tale will be told in a future post.]

(C) 2022 Mish J Holman. Do not reproduce without permission.

Portrait of the Kirbys by Thomas Gainsborough courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

[1] Marriages (PR) England. St Benet Paul’s Wharf. 5 November 1744. WEST, Henry and LOUCH, Elizabeth. P69/BEN3/A/003/MS05718/003. London Metropolitan Archives.

[2] Testamentary records. England. 12 April 1784. WEST, Henry. Will. Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Will Registers. PROB 11/1116.

[3] Blomfield, David. (1994) Kew past. Chichester: Phillimore & Co.

[4] Marriages (PR) England. 7 November 1794. Marriage bond and allegation. WYLD, James and HAVERFIELD, Elizabeth Ann. DW/MP/165/039. London Metropolitan Archives.

[5] Baptisms (PR) England. Kew, Surrey. 4 February 1800. WYLD, Diana Mary. DW/T/6039. London Metropolitan Archives.

[6] Burials (PR) England. Blunsdon, St. Andrew, Wiltshire. 14 September 1817. WYLD, Elizabeth Ann. Wiltshire Monumental Inscription Index.

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