Portraits of prominent Gloucestershire family head to auction
By David Wood | 16th October 2023
Chorley's auctioneers are offering a true slice of Gloucestershire history in their upcoming auction of fine art & antiques tomorrow (Tuesday, October 17).
The sale contains portraits of members of an important Gloucestershire family, the Estcourts, whose tenure in the region lasted for 700 years - from 1300 until 1996.
Among them is a painting of one of the original MPs for Gloucestershire, Sir Thomas Estcourt (1571-1624), who fiercely represented the county in Parliament. Such was his impact that he was knighted by James I for his service. He sadly died of the plague in Cirencester in 1624. His oil portrait, which dates from the 17th Century, carries an estimate of £800-£1,200 (Lot 792).
The Estcourt family played integral parts across the counties of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire with their involvement in politics, the suppression of slavery, duelling and local and national events.
They owned land and estates in Lasborough, Dursley, Long Newnton, Frampton Mansell, Bowldown, Calcott, Avening, Sapperton, Minchinhampton and Tetbury amongst others, with the main branch residing at Estcourt House at Shipton Moyne, Gloucestershire.
The family portraits in the sale once hung at the stunning Estcourt House, which was demolished by the family in 1964 as it was too large to upkeep. The remaining family members lived in the Dowager's cottage until as late as 1996.
The paintings come directly from the family by descent and this will be the first time that they have been offered for sale, or have left the family's collection.
Commenting on the rare works, Thomas Jenner-Fust of Chorley's said: "This group of portraits features members of one of the most prominent and ancient Gloucestershire families. The family were active in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire life for some 700 years, though the pictures span a period of about half that.
"We expect competition from museums and other institutions, distant family members and, of course, the decorative market."
The earliest portrait in the collection dates from 1595 and depicts Thomas de la Estcourt (1545-1599), a Welsh Judge, whose impressive tomb can be found in Shipton Moyne church. In oil on panel, it is estimated to fetch £4,000-£6,000 (Lot 790).
A companion portrait of his wife Emma Askew/Ayscough (1550-1624) also dating from 1595 is painted on canvas and is perhaps a copy of an earlier portrait produced at a later date, when a duplicate was required. In oil on canvas, it has an estimate of £1,200-£2,000 (Lot 791).
Giles Estcourt (c.1601-1668) of the Newnton and Salisbury branch of the family was created a Baronet on the 17th March 1626. His eldest son Sir Giles Estcourt died unmarried in 1676 in a duel in Italy. His younger son Sir William Estcourt (1654-1684) succeeded to the Baronetcy, however the title became extinct on his murder at the Devil's Tavern in London by Sir Henry St. John in 1684. The events that led to his death were recounted in the famed John Evelyn's diary and occurred on December 20th 1684.
At a large dinner party a quarrel arose between Sir William, the politician Sir Henry St John (1652-1742) and the MP Edmund Webb (c.1639-1705). Swords were drawn and Sir William was killed on the spot. Both were condemned for murder, but later pardoned, one through a Royal connection who had the power to do so and the other by the payment by his mother of £16,000.
William's oil portrait portrays him as a grand bewigged gentleman swathed in luxurious fabric. The painting's inscription on the painting simply states: 'Sir William Estcourt, Murdered 1685'. It dates from the early 18th Century carries an estimate of £2,500-£3,500 (Lot 793).
With the end of the male line, the estates passed to Thomas Estcourt, son of Matthew Estcourt of Cam, a distant kinsman. The portrait of this distant member of the family, Matthew Estcourt (1701-1762) is painted by George Allen and dates from 1735, it presents a confident young man and is estimated at £1,200-1,800 (Lot 794).
When Matthew's son Thomas Estcourt (1748-1818) came into his inheritance, it represented the unification of many of the estates. Thomas set about building the last and largest house on the site at Shipton Moyne in Gloucestershire in the late 1770s named Estcourt House and it was added to and altered in the 19th Century.
Sadly in the post-WWII period the house became too large and expensive to maintain and it was demolished in 1964. The auction will also include a poignant reminder of the magnificent family house, in an oil painting by Bertram Nicholls (1883-1974) showing the house in 1945. It carries an estimate £200-£300 (Lot 799).
A pair of portraits by George Richmond (1809-1896) illustrates Major General James Bucknall Estcourt MP (1802-1855) and his wife Caroline (1809-1886). Major general Estcourt was a great friend of Lord Raglan and joined the Crimean Expedition of the 1850s.
The public held both General Estcourt and General Airey to be responsible for the sufferings of the British Army, during its first winter in the Crimea. Both men were defended strongly by Lord Raglan in his dispatches of early 1855 and each continued working steadily, despite the criticism they had levelled at them. On 21 June 1855 Estcourt was struck down by cholera and died days later.
His death was mourned by his many friends and supporters, not least Lord Raglan, who decided against attending the funeral in case he could not contain his grief. The last visit Raglan paid before his own death was to Estcourt's tomb. The 'Gazette' of 10 July 1855 announced that Estcourt would have been made a K.C.B. had he survived. His widow, who had bravely spent the winter in camp and been at her husband's deathbed, was raised to the rank of a K.C.B.'s widow by special patent in 1856. The pair, which are signed and dated 1849, carry an estimate of £300-£500 (Lot 798).
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