Saved by love


Circle of Joseph Highmore, portrait of William, formerly 4th Baron Widdrington

The man in this portrait, William, 4th Lord Widdrington, looks like a characteristically self-assured Georgian gentleman. In fact, by the time the picture was painted he had lost his title and estates because of his involvement in the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. 

Nunnington Hall. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

He had actually been condemned to death as well, but his former lover, Catherine Graham, pleaded on his behalf and he was reprieved at the eleventh hour. He then married her, and they lived the rest of their lives at Catherine’s ancestral home, Nunnington Hall, North Yorkshire.

The portrait was purchased by the National Trust at the Newton Hall sale at Christie’s South Kensington, London, on 20 January. Funds for the purchase came from several generous bequests. 

The Oak Hall at Nunnington (some of the furnishings have recently changed). The painting on the wall includes Catherine Graham as a child, on the left. ©NTPL/Mike Williams

Newton Hall had been the Widdrington seat, and after its forfeiture by the Crown it was eventually bought by the Cook family. One of the Cooks married a great-niece of the last male Widdrington, and their son eventually changed his surname to Widdrington. The portrait we have acquired must have ended up at Newton Hall through this convoluted family inheritance. 

The Oak Bedroom at Nunnington (some of the furnishings have recently changed). ©NTPL/Mike Williams

It is not clear if the picture originally hung at Nunnington. However, it was decided to bid for it because the National Trust did not own a portrait of Widdrington in later life, after his marriage to Catherine. And of course it represents an affecting tale of love overcoming all, the kind of story, one imagines, that could be turned into a historical novel or a major motion picture. 

Fireplace in the Oak Bedroom. The embossed leather on the screen is a remnant of the seventeenth-century wallcovering. ©NTPL/Mike Williams

The painting will need to undergo some conservation work. It will go on display at Nunnington as is while further funds are being sought.

7 Responses to “Saved by love”

  1. Mary Says:

    What great pictures…thanks for sharing.

  2. Shin Young Says:

    Lovely blog. It’s nice to get a bit of history with it.

  3. style court Says:

    The behind-the-scenes intrigue is bringing a whole new dimension to the antiques. So happy you are sharing this.

  4. sammy & glenn Says:

    the story of Catherine & William is just beautiful. we’d love to see Nunnington – the oak hall looks stunning.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks Sammy & Glenn – yes its one of those quiet places that hide a passionate story.

  6. Richard Coates Says:

    I’m a room guide at Nunnington Hall (on Tuesdays) and am
    very often allocated the Dining Room for the day.I stand under the portrait of Lord Widdrington during quiet times and just wonder about the days of old.
    The Hall is well worth a visit as it is steeped in History, even if rathered chequered, with about 22 families living in it over a period of several centuries

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Richard, how nice to hear from you, and to know that you enjoy this portrait and its historical associations.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: