Lady linchpin

Portrait of Lady Mary Booth, by an unknown hand. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

I recently came upon this portrait of Lady Mary Booth (1704-1772) and was struck by her lively and open expression.

Bird’s eye view of Dunham from the south-west by John Harris, ca 1750. ©National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak

Lady Mary was the heiress to the Dunham Massey estate. Unusually for the time, her father, the 2nd Earl of Warrington, wanted his only daughter to have full control of her property. He left it in trust for her benefit, rather than leaving it to her outright, so that when she married it wouldn’t automatically be transferred to her husband.

Portrait of Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford, by an unknown hand. ©National Trust Images/Fraser Marr

When she did marry in 1736, at the relatively late age of 32, it was to the much younger Harry, Lord Grey of Groby, later 4th Earl of Stamford. She was the linchpin that brought the Booth and Grey family estates (at Dunham Massey and Enville Hall, respectively), together.

The Library at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Although it was probably an arranged marriage it seems to have been a succesful one. The Countess of Stamford was highly educated and intellectual, and the books with her bookplate in the Dunham library include natural history, poetry, plays and religious topics.

View of the Brownian planting in the New Park at Dunham, by Anthony Devis, 1767. ©National Trust

She also developed the New Park at Dunham, where she may have employed Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to create one of the newly fashionable landscape gardens.

14 Responses to “Lady linchpin”

  1. style court Says:

    Emile, fascinating twist on the male primogeniture laws/customs we, in the States, have become more familiar with of late thanks to a certain TV series. Dunham Massey’s Mary sounds like such an interesting person, too — her portrait does feel softer and more alive than others.

    Btw: Thought of the “bag” post this morning when I saw Prince Philip reaching into what I believe was the purse of state? (On the morning news — Queen Elizabeth’s speech.)

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Courtney, yes indeed, and it is interesting how in that ‘certain TV series’ primogeniture is made into a central part of the plot.

    I think it may have been the Lord Chancellor you saw retrieving the speech out of his purse of state and handing it to the Queen, as that is his job on the day (but I missed watching the event myself).

  3. Christopher Gallagher Says:

    Hi Emile, Another fascinating entry – I was struck (as you might imagine) by the Devis picture of the New Park at Dunham. When I first saw this, I initially thought it was by W.S.Gilpin (1761/2–1843) – it certainly anticipates his style of landscaping, as depicted in his book, “Practical Hints upon Landscape Gardening…” which was first published in 1832 – nearly 70 years after the Devis view (although Gilpin would in general not have advocated the use of pure stands of conifers in parkland (are they Larch?), as Brown clearly did at Dunham). It is interesting that Brown was contracted to develop an area of the new parkland away from the earlier formal landscape shown in the Harris birds-eye views. Of course, it has become something of a cliché that wherever Brown worked, he ‘swept away’ all traces of formality, when there is plentiful evidence to the contrary (for example also at Charlecote, where he worked from the late 1750’s onwards and integrated the early-18th century Lime avenue into his design for the park). I also have the view (not held by many) that Brown in his own work, anticipated the style of the later ‘Picturesque’ theorists and designers, as evidenced in the Devis view of Dunham New Park and also in his design for Berrington (Herefordshire). This is somewhat ironic, as he later became the butt of criticism from these same theorists, whereas if they had looked closer at what he actually achieved, they might have seen in him a kindred spirit. But then of course, we would have been spared the great ‘Picturesque Controversy’ of the later 18th century, which has fuelled debate ever since (not least in attempting to describe what it was all about!), so perhaps it’s as well they didn’t.

  4. style court Says:

    Yes, it was kind of curious. Prince Philip seemed to be peeking into the bag — or another opulent bag — as the Lord Chancellor held it 🙂 Anyway, a lot of special textiles had their moment on camera and I was more aware of the bag thanks to your recent posts.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Chris, thank you very much for those learned observations. It is very interesting to see the hackneyed view corrected that Brown always swept his predecessors’ work away, and equally interesting that he may have had some ‘picturesque’ tendencies.
    Courtney, perhaps Prince Philip was joking with the Lord Chancellor about what else might (or might not) emerge from his purse 🙂 And yes I love these events too for their displays of living heritage.

  6. Andrew Says:

    Good to see that Ken Clarke has revived the tradition of the Lord Chancellor wearing a full-bottomed wig on ceremonial occasions, not to mention the breeches, silk stockings and silver buckled shoes! Jack Straw and Lord Falconer were against. But this part of the role is largely ceremonial, and it makes sense (to me at least) to wear the proper outfit.

    Speaker Bercow is also continuing the trend of the Speaker wearing more modern / less traditional garb. A gown over a lounge suit looks a bit odd, outside Oxford or Cambridge.

  7. ldm Says:

    The birds eye view of Dunham is identified as being by ‘John Harris’. That is a new name to me, at least as far as 18th century landscape painters go. Perhaps the artist is unknown and the painting was included in the author John Harris’s wonderful book “The Artist and the Country House”?

  8. Andrew Says:

    John Harris, 1715-1755 –

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, yes I agree it makes sense on those occasions for the protagonists to wear completely traditional garb, and to wear it with pride. Also, the style of these costumes (seventeenth/eighteenth century?) is not actually all that old, compared to what is worn on such occasions in countries like Japan, where they wear medieval-style dress on formal court occasions, and wear it with great dignity and visual splendour.

    And many thanks for the link to the John Harris database entry. I checked on the Getty Union List of Artist Names, and that lists no fewer than eight John Harrises, including the architectural historian you mention, Idm, but also four JHs spanning the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, so lots of scope for confusion 🙂 The one relevant here, of whom Andrew helpfully provided the dates, is sometimes called John Harris II.

  10. ldm Says:

    Thanks to both of you for the information about John Harris the artist.

  11. Andrew Says:

    Indeed – his father was an engraver, John Harris (known as John Harris I) (1686-1740). He made architectural prints, for example, for works by Giacomo Leoni, and has an ODNB entry, if you have access:

    A bit later – and apparently unrelated – were another father-and-son pairing, John Harris (the Elder, 1767-1832) and John Harris (the Younger, 1791-1873) also in the ODNB:
    The former principally known for his book illustrations and the later for facsimiles of historic books.

    For some reason, the ODNB has missed out JH II and his landscape paintings.

  12. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you so much Andrew for those links. We should lobby for the inclusion of JH II in the ODNB, as his paintings are such marvelously detailed records of what places used to look like. I included a close-up of one of his other views of Dunham in this post:

  13. Andrew Says:

    Hmm – did you mean to attribute that other view of Dunham Massey to “Richard Harris”?

  14. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    No! I am not sure how that weird error crept in – thanks for mentioning it.

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