8 September 2022
The oil painting reproduced here, soon to be sold at auction, is a portrait of Charles Chadwick, then of Healey Hall, near Rochdale. The artist was John Downman ARA, who also executed a preliminary chalk sketch, now held in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
Charles Chadwick was admitted to Emmanuel in April 1771, although he appears not to have come into residence until Michaelmas Term, when he turned eighteen. He graduated Bachelor of Laws in 1778, paying the college the requisite fee of £4 on March 11. The LL.B degree required six years’ membership of the university, including a residency of at least three years. Charles was still at Emma in October 1774 but had left by the spring of 1775, when he was admitted to the Middle Temple. Although he dabbled in the Law he had no need to practise, as he was heir to the estates of both his father and his minted aunt Dorothy. He could also reasonably expect to marry well and duly did so, bagging the heiress Frances Green of Leventhorpe in 1788. As well as playing a prominent role in local affairs, Charles was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and made significant (if occasionally unreliable) contributions to Shaw’s History of Staffordshire.
In coming to Emma, Charles was following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather and his grandfather, both also called Charles, who had matriculated in 1657 and 1692, respectively. His great-grand-uncle John was also an Emma man, although he was sent down in disgrace in 1664 for (amongst other things) drunkenness, idleness, fighting, insolence and exercising a ‘malign influence’ over his peers, none of which prevented his becoming a clergyman two years later. Other collateral relatives who had come to Emma included yet another Charles Chadwick, appointed one of the first college Fellows in 1584 by Emmanuel’s Founder, Sir Walter Mildmay.
Note in Charles Chadwick’s hand, 1774. © Emmanuel College, Cambridge
The college archives contain a collection of mid-seventeenth century letters and student bills relating to Charles Chadwick and his reprobate brother John. A note pinned to one of Charles’ 1658 bills is in the hand of his great grandson, the Charles Chadwick depicted by Downman. Charles explains his ancestor’s purchase of a ‘Rackett’ by noting that ‘the walls of an old building still remain in the Master’s piece, and join up to the wall of the Fellows’ garden, which building (they say) was formerly a Tennis-Court. C.C. Emm. Coll. 1774’.
‘Portrait’ Charles has left little other trace in the archives, but it is reasonable to infer that he had a warm regard for his college. For one thing, he donated 100 guineas after the fire of 1811 that gutted the Westmorland Building, and for another, he had Downman depict Emmanuel in the background of his portrait. The aspect chosen was the new frontage designed by James Essex, completed in 1775. The northernmost part of that range, referred to initially as ‘The Buttery End’, had already been erected when Charles was admitted to Emma, and it was here – effectively adjacent to a building site - that young Chadwick roomed. At first he occupied the ground floor chamber, but soon moved to the second (top) floor, where he paid an annual study rent of £8.
Preparatory sketch of Charles Chadwick, by John Downman, 1778. ©The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
The Chadwick portrait almost certainly presents the earliest delineation, in a painting, of the new Essex frontage, and is therefore of particular interest to the college. The picture is also, of course, a delightful likeness of a debonair young graduate, proudly sporting his newly-acquired LL.B gown and square, and celebrating his association with Emmanuel, the college where so many of his forebears had studied.
Amanda Goode College Archivist
The portrait of Charles Chadwick is to be sold by Cheffins Fine Art, of Cambridge, on 21 September 2022Back to All Blog Posts