James Thornhill

Sir James Thornhill (25 July 1675 or 1676 – 4 May 1734) was an English painter of historical subjects working in the Italian baroque tradition. He was responsible for some large-scale schemes of murals, including the "Painted Hall" at the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, the paintings on the inside of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, and works at Chatsworth House and Wimpole Hall.

Sir James Thornhill
James Thornhill self portrait
Self portrait, detail of a painting in the Painted Hall of the Greenwich Hospital, Greenwich, London
Born25 July 1675
Died4 May 1734 (aged 58)
BuildingsMoor Park
Sketch for the Painted Ceiling of the Great Hall, Greenwich Hospital: William and Mary Presenting the Cap of Liberty to Europe, about 1710, Sir James Thornhill V&A Museum no. 812-1877
Royal Naval College Greenwich panoramic
West wall, Painted Hall, Greenwich
Rape of the Sabines, by James Thornhill, 1690s - Painted Antechamber, Chatsworth House - Derbyshire, England - DSC03298
Sabine bedroom, Chatsworth House, 1706
Hanbury Hall - panoramio (1)
The staircase Hanbury Hall, murals completed c.1710
Blenheim palace, Oxfordshire (19001949811)
Hall ceiling, Blenheim Palace 1716
Dome of st pauls
Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, London 1714-17
Painted Hall, Greenwich
James Thornhill Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton
Portrait of Sir Isaac Newton in old age by James Thornhill, 1709-12.
Cmglee Wimpole Hall chapel
The chapel Wimpole Hall, with Thornhill's murals, completed 1724


Thornhill was born in Melcombe Regis, Dorset, the son of Walter Thornhill of Wareham and Mary, eldest daughter of Colonel William Sydenham, governor of Weymouth. In 1689 he was apprenticed to Thomas Highmore (1660–1720), a specialist in non-figurative decorative painting. He also learned a great deal from Antonio Verrio and Louis Laguerre, two prominent foreign decorative painters then working in England. He completed his apprenticeship in 1696 and, on 1 March 1704, became a Freeman of the Painter-Stainers' Company of London.

Decorative schemes

Thornhill decorated palace interiors with large-scale compositions, with figures commonly shown in idealized and rhetorical postures. In 1707 he was given the commission to decorate the Hall now known as the "Painted Hall" at Greenwich Hospital (1707–1727). The scheme of allegorical wall and ceiling decorations of the hall depicts the Protestant succession of English monarchs from William III and Mary II to George I.

On 28 June 1715 Thornhill was awarded the commission to decorate the dome of St Paul's Cathedral by "a whig, low-church dominated committee inspired by a moral Anglican nationalism".[1] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Tenison, is said to have remarked: "I am no judge of painting, but on two articles I think I may insist: first that the painter employed be a Protestant; and secondly that he be an Englishman".[1] The Weekly Packet said that the decision to award Thornhill the commission would "put to silence all the loud applauses hitherto given to foreign artists".[1] The eight scenes in the dome (1716–19), executed in grisaille, show episodes from the Life of St. Paul.

Thornhill's vast murals in great houses often related to topical events, as seen through the eyes of his mainly Whig patrons. At Chatsworth, during 1707-8 Thornhill painted a number of walls and ceilings, the most notable being the continuous wall and ceiling painting of the Sabine room, then a lobby, but since used as a bedroom. Here he painted The Rape of the Sabine Women, a vast panorama of mounted warriors carrying off the Sabine women to Rome. He chooses to feature strongly Hersilia, who was deified for her loyalty to her Roman husband, Romulus, as against her Sabine family - a deliberate reference to Mary, lauded by the Whigs for supporting her Protestant husband, William, against her Catholic father, James.

At Hanbury Hall, beneath an imposing view of both the Olympian Gods and the story of Achilles which dominates the ceiling of the main staircase, Thornhill added a small portrait of Rev Henry Sacheverell, a Tory propagandist put on trial for sedition by the Whig government in 1710, being cast to the Furies to be burnt. In 1716 Thornhill painted the ceiling of the Great Hall in Blenheim Palace for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, newly returned to the country after being prosecuted by the Tory ministry in the last years of Queen Anne. The subject is, inevitably, the Duke's 1704 victory at the Battle of Blenheim, during the War of the Spanish Succession.

His last major commission was to paint the chapel at Wimpole Hall;[2] he started work on the preliminary sketches in 1713 and the work was finished by 1724. The north wall has fictive architecture and four Trompe-l'œil "statues" of the four Doctors of the Church.[3] The east wall above the altar is painted with the Adoration of the Magi.

In 1725 he offered to paint decorations for the ceiling of the New Council Chamber at the Guildhall in the City of London. He gave his services free, although he was rewarded with a valuable gold cup. The chamber was later demolished, though some of the paintings – an Allegory of London, and representations of the Cardinal Virtues, personified as naked children – survive.[4]

Other works

In his native Dorset Thornhill decorated the reredos at St. Mary's Church, Weymouth, with a picture of the Last Supper.Thornhill was also a notable portraitist.

Drawing academies

In 1711, Thornhill was one of the twelve original directors of Sir Godfrey Kneller's academy at Great Queen Street, London. In 1716, he succeeded Kneller as Governor there and held the post until 1720. He then established his own private drawing school at Covent Garden, but this soon closed. In November 1724, Thornhill made a second, more successful, attempt to establish a new free academy in his private house at Covent Garden.

William Hogarth

William Hogarth seems to have been a member of Thornhill's second academy from the beginning. On 23 March 1729 he married Thornhill's daughter Jane. Thornhill was with Hogarth when he went to see Sarah Malcolm in Newgate prison just days before her execution. This was in order that Hogarth might record her portrait.[5]


In June 1718 George I made Thornhill court painter, and in March 1720 Serjeant Painter, succeeding his former master Highmore in the latter role. On 2 May 1720, the king knighted him, the first native artist to be knighted.[6] In the same year, he was master of the Painters' Company and in 1723 fellow of the Royal Society.

Political career

From 1722 to 1734 Thornhill was Member of Parliament for Melcombe Regis.

Houses and architecture

In 1718 Thornhill took a large house on Covent Garden Piazza, and in 1725 he renovated Thornhill House in the south of Stalbridge, near Sturminster Newton, Dorset, in the Palladian manner.[7]

In 1720 he tried his hand at architecture. Along with Giacomo Leoni, he designed Moor Park,[8] for which he also painted the entrance hall ceiling and other rooms.

Raphael cartoons

Towards the end of his life Thornhill was receiving no major commissions, so he began to copy the Raphael Cartoons, then at Hampton Court. Apart from full-size copies, completed in 1731, he made 162 smaller studies of heads, hands and feet intending to publish them in printed form for the use of art students, but left this work unfinished at his death. The original small wash designs of details of the cartoons are now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Thornhill's copies of the cartoons were sold by auction by Christopher Cock on 24 and 25 February 1735 at his room in the Great Piazza, Covent Garden.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Barber, Tabitha. "Thornhill, Sir James (1675/6–1734)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 September 2010. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ Souden 2004, p. 14
  3. ^ Souden 2004, p.77
  4. ^ Manners and Morals: Hogarth and British Painting 1700-1760. London: Tate Gallery. 1987. pp. 57–9.
  5. ^ Ian Donnachie, ‘Malcolm, Sarah (c.1710–1733)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 7 Aug 2014
  6. ^ Harmsworth Encyclopedia 1905
  7. ^ "Thornhill Park, Stalbridge, Dorset" (PDF).
  8. ^ Hussey, Christopher (1955). English Country Houses Early Georgian 1715-1760. Country Life. p. 43.
  9. ^ Cock, Christopher (1735). A catalogue of the intire collection belonging to Sir James Thornhill, late principal history painter to His Majesty, &c. London: Christopher Cock.
  • Barber, Tabitha, ‘Thornhill, Sir James (1675/6–1734)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 23 Sept 2010.
  • Souden, David (2004). Wimpole Hall. National Trust. p. 14.
  • Raffaele De Giorgi, "Couleur, couleur!". Antonio Verrio: un pittore in Europa tra Seicento e Settecento (Edifir, Firenze 2009). ISBN 9788879704496

Further reading

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Daniel Harvey
William Betts
Thomas Littleton
Edward Harrison
Member of Parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis
With: William Betts 1722–1730
Thomas Pearse 1722–1727, 1727–1734
John Ward 1722–1726
John Willes 1726–1727
Edward Tucker 1727–1734
George Dodington 1730–1734
Succeeded by
Edward Tucker
Thomas Pearse
George Dodington
George Dodington
1707 in art

Events from the year 1707 in art.

1716 in art

Events from the year 1716 in art.

1734 in Great Britain

Events from the year 1734 in Great Britain.

Atlas Coelestis

The Atlas Coelestis is a star atlas published posthumously in 1729, based on observations made by the First Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed.The Atlas – the largest that ever had been published and the first comprehensive telescopic star catalogue and companion celestial atlas – contains 26 maps of the major constellations visible from Greenwich, with drawings made in the Rococo style by James Thornhill. It also presents two planispheres designed by Abraham Sharp.

Benjamin Haskins-Stiles

Benjamin Haskins-Stiles (c.1684 - 4 April 1739), of Bowden Park, near Chippenham, Wiltshire and Moor Park, Hertfordshire, was an English landowner and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1721 to 1734.

Haskins-Styles was the eldest son of Joseph Haskins Stiles, a sometime Amsterdam merchant and his wife Sarah Eyles, eldest daughter of Sir John Eyles, MP. After inheriting both his father's and younger brother Joseph's fortunes (1714 and 1719 respectively) he acquired several estates in Wiltshire, including Bowden Park, near Devizes and Calne manor and Moor Park, Hertfordshire, where he commissioned Giacomo Leoni and Sir James Thornhill to remodel the house as a Palladian mansion.Haskins-Stiles was returned as Member of Parliament (MP) for Devizes at a by-election on 8 February 1721, replacing his uncle Francis Eyles, who had been expelled from Parliament as a director of the failed South Sea Company. At the 1722 general election he was returned for Devizes and Calne and chose to sit for Devizes as a petition was outstanding at Calne. He was returned unopposed again for Devizes in 1727, but did not stand at the 1734 general election.Haskins-Stiles married twice, but left no surviving children. He died on 4 April 1739. Moor Park was sold to Admiral George Anson, 1st Baron Anson in 1754.


The Bysse family were prominent in the Dublin legal world in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and were also substantial landowners. Their main seat was Brackenstown House near Swords, and they also had a town house at Preston's Inn, on the site of the present-day City Hall. The most notable member of the family was John Bysse (1602?-1680), who became Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer. Through his daughter Judith most of the Bysse property passed to her son Robert Molesworth, 1st Viscount Molesworth.

A portrait of John Bysse, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer was made by James Thornhill.

Francesco Sleter

Francesco Sleter (1685 – 29 August 1775) was an Italian painter, active in England.

He was born in Venice. He is believed to have studied under Gregorio Lazzarini. He was in England by 1719 when he designed the stained glass windows for James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos in the chapel at Cannons, these are now in the church at Great Witley. Other work at Cannons involved painting the staircase ceiling with the Triumph of Victory, the anteroom ceiling with an allegory of Eternity and Fame and the Best Bedchamber with an allegory of Love and Marriage. At Grimsthorpe Castle for Peregrine Bertie, 2nd Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven in the mid-1720s he is attributed with painting the dining room ceiling with Liberal Arts and the staircase ceiling with Triumph of Cybele. At Mereworth Castle for John Fane, 7th Earl of Westmorland he painted the gallery ceiling with Rococo ornament and various mythological subjects and also the East Bedroom ceiling with panels of playing cupids. At Moor Park he worked with Sir James Thornhill and painted the four inset paintings in the gallery of the hall of Sileno and Amazzone, Baccanale and Zingara, Flora and Ercole and Iside and Apollo he also contributed to the mural paintings in the saloon and staircase hall. At the now demolished Moulsham Hall he painted the dining room. At Stowe House he worked with the architect William Kent for Viscount Cobham and was active in both the house and several of the temples in the gardens during the 1730s & 1740s, including the ceiling and the now destroyed murals of the Grand Staircase the ceiling of the State Dining Room, the Temple of Venus, The Temple of Friendship, the Imperial Closet and The Queen's Temple none of the work in the garden survives apart from The Chinese House. He was also responsible for the mural paintings at St. Lawrence church, Whitchurch, London, for the 1st Duke of Chandos, the ceiling was painted by Louis Laguerre. He retired to Mereworth where there is a memorial tablet to him in the church.

Gerard Vandergucht

Gerard Vandergucht (or van der Gucht) (1696/97 – 18 March 1776) was an English engraver and art dealer.

Vandergucht, born in London, the elder son of the Flemish engraver Michael Vandergucht. He was taught engraving by his father, as was his younger brother Jan Vandergucht (or John) (c.1699-c.1730). Gerard was also taught drawing by Louis Chéron, and studied at Godfrey Kneller's Great Queen Street Academy. He surpassed the restrained style of engraving favoured by his father, and became one of the leading engravers in London by adopting the French method of combining precise engraving with etched tones.In 1719, he was commissioned by James Thornhill to engrave four designs for the cupola of St Paul's Cathedral. He took over his father's house - the Golden Head in Queen Street, Bloomsbury - following his father's death in 1725. He married Mary Liney on 24 August, 1725. They had over 30 children, including the painter and picture dealer Benjamin Vandergucht.He became a leading publisher of engraved prints and book illustrations, and taught Robert White and Francis Patton.

In 1735, he took a leading role in the artists' demands for copyright protection which led to an extension of the provisions established by William Hogarth in the Engraving Copyright Act. The 1735 act only protected original designs. Vandergucht and his supporters successfully lobbied to extend copyright protection to cover all prints.He concentrated on art dealing in the last 16 years of his life, selling prints, drawings, paintings and statues. He was a member of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce. He moved to Vandyke's Head, Great Brook Street, in 1758, where he died in 1776.

Isabella Brant (drawing)

Isabella Brant,a portrait drawing, was executed in Antwerp around 1621, by Flemish artist and diplomat, Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). Brant (1591–1626) was Rubens' first wife and modelled for some of his portraits until her untimely death in 1626. The portrait is drawn in black and red chalk with white heightening on brown wash paper.

This drawing is noted for its 'immediacy and attractiveness, and was the basis for three oil paintings. The first was painted in 1621 by Rubens' pupil, Anthony van Dyck as a gift to his mentor. This portrait now hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The second, painted by Rubens between 1620 and 1625, is located in the Cleveland Museum of Art and the third also painted by Rubens in 1625, is located in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Following Ruben's death, the drawing passed through five known collectors and was eventually acquired by the British Museum in 1893.

During re-mounting work in 1964, a rough sketch was discovered on the reverse side of the portrait. The sketch, also in red and black chalk is presumed to be a self-portrait of Rubens and his second wife Hélène Fourment (1614–1673) with Rubens' child.

John Symes Berkeley

John Symes Berkeley (1663–1736) of Stoke Gifford near Bristol was an English Member of Parliament.

He was born the second son of Richard Berkeley of Stoke Gifford and inherited the family estates on the death of his elder brother in 1685, including Stoke Park. He later exploited the rich coal deposits beneath the estate and commissioned Sir James Thornhill to rebuild a summerhouse at the end of the terrace of Stoke Park House as an orangery.

He was twice elected to represent the constituency of Gloucestershire in the Parliament between 1710 and 1715.

He died at Bath in 1736 and was buried at Stoke Gifford. He had married twice; firstly in 1695, Susan, the daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Fowles and the widow of Jonathan Cope and secondly in 1717, Elizabeth, the daughter and coheiress of Walter Norborne of Calne, Wiltshire and widow of Edward Devereux, 8th Viscount Hereford, with whom he had a son, Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botetourt, a future Governor of Virginia and a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Lord Charles Somerset. On Norborne's death in Virginia, Stoke Park House passed to Elizabeth and became a Dower House of the Beauforts.

John Willes (judge)

Sir John Willes (29 November 1685 – 15 December 1761) was an English lawyer and judge who was the longest-serving Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas since the 15th century. He was also a Member of Parliament.

List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1723

This is a list of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1723.

List of people from the Royal Borough of Greenwich

List of people from Greenwich [incomplete] :

Astronomer Royal Sir George Airy lived at the White House, Crooms Hill.

Boy George lead singer of Culture Club born in Eltham, Greenwich

Writer Jocelyn Brooke lived at 13 Eliot Place, Blackheath.

Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, statesman and man of letters, lived at the Ranger's House, Chesterfield Walk, Greenwich.

Composer and conductor Christopher D. Cook was born and raised in Charlton.

Actor Dominic Cooper, was born in Greenwich.

Actor and comedian Simon Day, was born in Blackheath.

Engineer Alexander Duckham, founder of the Duckhams oil company, was born in Blackheath, living in Dartmouth Grove and in Vanbrugh Castle, east Greenwich. His brother Arthur Duckham, founder of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, was also born and raised in Blackheath.

Christopher Gabbitas, baritone with The King's Singers A cappella group, currently lives in Greenwich.

Barrister Mark Watson-Gandy lives in Blackheath.

Evening Standard journalist Andrew Gilligan currently lives in Greenwich.

Malcolm Hardee (1950–2005), comedian, author, club proprietor, agent, manager and former "Father of British alternative comedy" spent most of his life in Greenwich and ran his two most famous clubs there – The Tunnel (near Blackwall Tunnel) and Up The Creek, which still exists in Creek Road.

Blake Harrison, actor most famous for his role as "Neil" in The Inbetweeners was born in Greenwich.

Musician Jools Holland lives in Greenwich and at Cooling Castle, Kent.

Jazz and blues guitarist Billy Jenkins ran Wood Wharf rehearsal studios, situated to the west of the Cutty Sark, during the 1980s.

Glen Johnson, a footballer who plays for England and Stoke City was born in Greenwich, 23 August 1984.

Dr Samuel Johnson, compiler of the first English dictionary, lived in Greenwich Church Street when he first came to London in 1736.

Henry Kelsey (c. 1667 – 1724), early explorer of Canada, was born and married in East Greenwich, and buried in St Alfege's Church.

Guitarist Albert Lee grew up in Blackheath, Greenwich.

Comedian Dan Leno rented accommodation at the Spreadeagle Tavern, Stockwell Street in 1902.

Poet Cecil Day-Lewis lived at 6 Crooms Hill.

Actor Sir Daniel Day-Lewis who has won three Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, four BAFTAs and three Screen Actors Guild Awards, grew up in Charlton, Greenwich.

Interior designer and television presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen lived in Greenwich.

Indie band Lucky Soul are based in Greenwich.

Comic postcard artist Donald McGill lived at 5 Bennett Park, Blackheath Village.

Drummer Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, was born in Greenwich in 1946.

Dr James Monro of Bethlem Hospital-fame began his medical practice here in 1713.

Novelist Mary Anna Needell (née Lupton) was born at Vanbrugh Castle in 1830.

Mechanical engineer John Penn was born in Greenwich and his main works were situated in south Greenwich, close to the modern-day junction of Blackheath Road and Lewisham Road.

Actress Vanessa Redgrave was born in Greenwich.

Eric Gascoigne Robinson VC, naval commander and war hero, was born in Greenwich.

Wing Commander Jack Rose, RAF fighter pilot and colonial administrator, was born in Blackheath and attended Shooters Hill School.

Businessman Frank Searle was born in Greenwich in 1874.

Victor Serebriakoff, International President of Mensa, lived at Blackheath.

Actor Ben Small lives in Greenwich.

Renaissance composer, musician, and Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, Thomas Tallis died in Greenwich on 23 November 1585.

Architect Samuel Sanders Teulon was born in Greenwich.

Artist Sir James Thornhill was said to have lived in Park Hall on Crooms Hill (originally designed for architect John James who never actually occupied the house).

King Henry VIII (Tudor) was born in Greenwich on 28 June 1491.

Architect Sir John Vanbrugh lived at 121 Maze Hill in a house of his own design, today known as Vanbrugh Castle, overlooking Greenwich Park.

Filmmaker John Walsh was born in and still resides in Greenwich.

Barrister Mark Watson-Gandy currently lives in the Blackheath district of the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Benjamin Waugh, founder of the UK charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, lived in Crooms Hill.

Actor Colin Wells was born in Greenwich.

General James Wolfe lived in McCartney House on Crooms Hill, and was buried in St Alfege's Church.

Sir Alfred Yarrow, shipbuilder, lived in Woodlands, Mycenae Road, north of Blackheath.

Louis Laguerre

Louis Laguerre (1663 – 20 April 1721) was a French decorative painter mainly working in England.

Born in Versailles in 1663 and trained at the Paris Academy under Charles Le Brun, he came to England in 1683, where he first worked with Antonio Verrio, and then on his own. He rivalled with Sir James Thornhill in the field of history painting, primarily decorating the great houses of the nobility. His wall paintings can be found in Blenheim Palace, Marlborough House, Petworth House, Burghley House Fetcham Park House and Chatsworth House. In the 1980s, a restoration project revealed work by Laguerre at Frogmore House also. His subject matter included English victories over the armies of Louis XIV.

Laguerre painted religious subjects at St Lawrence's Church, Whitchurch, London. In 1731 Alexander Pope wrote,

On painted ceilings you devoutly stareWhere sprawl the saints of Verrio or Laguerre...

which was taken by some contemporaries to be a reference to Laguerre's work for James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos at this church and the nearby Cannons House.

Laguerre was also a director of Godfrey Kneller's London Academy of Drawing and Painting, founded in the autumn of 1711. He died in London on 20 April 1721.

Moor Park (house)

Moor Park is a Palladian mansion set within several hundred acres of parkland to the south-east of Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, England. It is called Moor Park Mansion because it is in the old park of the Manor of More. It now serves as the clubhouse of Moor Park Golf Club.

The house is listed Grade I on the National Heritage List for England, and the landscaped park is listed Grade II* on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.


Stalbridge () is a small town and civil parish in Dorset, England, situated in the Blackmore Vale area of North Dorset district, near the border with Somerset. In the 2011 census the civil parish—which includes the small settlement of Stalbridge Weston to the southwest—had 1,160 households and a population of 2,698. The nearest towns are Sturminster Newton, 4 miles (6.4 km) south east, Sherborne, 6 miles (9.7 km) west, and Shaftesbury, 7 miles (11 km) north east. Stalbridge is situated on the A357 on a low limestone ridge, one mile west of the River Stour. It officially became a town in April 1992.Though relatively small, Stalbridge has its own independent supermarket, a newsagent, electronics store, GP surgery, dentist and optician, as well as many other services, reflecting its catchment area of surrounding farms and hamlets. It is also home to the local free newspaper, the Blackmore Vale Magazine.

The National Student

The National Student is a national online magazine for higher education students in the United Kingdom. It was launched in 2002 by James Thornhill and is edited by Camille Dupont and Lucy Miller.

Stories are produced by students or young graduates with a paid part-time student editorial team for each section.

The National Student Magazine is a termly supplement of The National Student. It is distributed on university campuses around the UK each September and April, with a travel-focused edition in January.

Thomas Highmore

Thomas Highmore (22 June 1660, London - 8 March 1720, London) was an English painter of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He was one of two sons born to Abraham Highmore, making him cousin to the surgeon Nathaniel Highmore. His apprenticeship to Leonard Cotes (1674-1681) just predated the Glorious Revolution, which put William III and Mary on the British throne. William appointed Highmore his Serjeant Painter in April 1703 and his successor in that role was his relation and apprentice James Thornhill. His nephew Joseph Highmore also later became a painter, though Joseph never studied under Thomas

Thomas Pearse

Thomas Pearse (died 1743), of Tower Hill, London and Witchampton, Dorset, was a British businessman and politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1722 and 1741.

Pearse was the second son of James Pearse of Weymouth. He was in business in the City of London and, at some time, became Chief clerk at the Navy office He married twice, his second wife being a daughter of Thomas Best of Chatham. In 1721 he became a director of the South Sea Company.Pearse was returned unopposed as Member of Parliament for his native town Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, at the 1722 general election.. He was appointed a commissioner of the navy in 1726 and vacated his seat on 11 October 1726. He chose not to stand at the ensuing by-election, and was re-elected MP for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in a contest at the 1727 general election. He was returned unopposed at the 1734 general election, voting with the Government in every recorded division.When in 1740 George Bubb Dodington set up four opposition candidates at Weymouth, Walpole gave Pearse and John Olmius ‘the strongest assurance of my friendship and support’ against everybody that shall think fit to oppose them. During the campaign at the 1741 general election Walpole approved a scheme drawn up by Pearse’s friends at Weymouth to remove several local revenue officers to allow the Government to win all four seats. Pearse was defeated in the contest at the election. Afterwards, he gave evidence to the secret committee set up by the House of Commons to enquire into Walpole’s Administration. He admitted that the mayor of Weymouth had been offered the post of collector of customs for himself and a living for his brother-in-law, a clergyman if he would pack the corporation to choose a returning officer for the election. This was backed up by an implied threat to the town’s charter when the mayor refused.Pearse was still in possession of his Navy place when he died on 3 April 1743. He had a son and three daughters by his first wife, and two sons and a daughter by his second wife.


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