Catalogue of Paintings: Introduction

Essay by Martin Postle

Doddington Hall contains a fascinating collection of over one hundred paintings, ranging from the sixteenth century to the present day. The majority of works have not been the subject of serious scholarly research prior to the present study. Nor have they been displayed beyond the confines of the house. Collectively, these pictures raise a whole series of questions concerning display history and strategy, as well as issues relating to attribution, the identity of sitters, provenance, painting technique, materials, conservation and framing. The collection’s display history, although connected inextricably to Doddington, extends beyond the parameters of the house itself to a network of houses and families in Britain and Ireland, reflecting personal fortunes and failures, and dynastic alliances. Without doubt, the family that left its mark on Doddington more than any other was the Delavals, an extraordinary dynasty of buccaneering Northumbrian estate owners and entrepreneurs, whose fall from grace in the early decades of the nineteenth century was as spectacular as their rise to prominence a century earlier. Yet, Doddington is not just about the Delavals. The Tailor and Hussey families that preceded them, and the Jarvis family that succeeded them, all contribute to the richness and diversity of the collection and the research questions it provokes.

In the context of the present research project, the first and most essential task was to form a basic understanding of the collection as a whole. In order to do so, high-resolution photographs of all the pictures in the house were commissioned on behalf of the Paul Mellon Centre, and a check-list of works, including new attributions, was compiled by Dr Jonathan Yarker.1 The check-list formed the basis of the present catalogue of paintings. Compilation of the catalogue revealed the overall character of the collection, its varied content and quality. Family portraits form the core of the collection, leavened by landscapes and maritime paintings, as well as a handful of genre and historical pictures. There are significant works of art at Doddington by major artists of the British School, including Lely, Reynolds and Zoffany. There are also works by minor masters of varying quality. The strengths of the collection, however, extend beyond the virtuosity of individual pictures to the character of the collection as a whole and its complex display history. Pictures have been moved in and out of Doddington Hall over the past three hundred years, but there has been no significant haemorrhaging of art from the collection. Relatively few pictures have been sold, and those that have left Doddington remain in the possession of various branches of associated families, forming an extended network of art patronage.

Essentially, four groups of pictures make up the collection at Doddington Hall, relating to the ownership and occupancy of four families: Tailor, Hussey, Delaval and Jarvis. Although Thomas Tailor (1503–1607) hereafter referred to as Thomas Tailor I, registrar to the bishop of Lincoln, was the builder of Doddington, his family’s pictorial presence today is recalled only by a single portrait of his son, Thomas Tailor II (DN4), who died unmarried in 1652. Whether other Tailor family-related pictures were formerly in the house is unknown, but the 1607 inventory, which records a total of eighty-five pieces of furniture ranged across forty rooms, suggests that the interior may have been fairly sparsely populated with pictures, if at all.2 There are at Doddington today a small number of early to mid-seventeenth-century portraits, notably a version of John de Critz’s portrait of James I (DN15), the portrait of an unknown woman previously called Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia (DN10), and the portrait of an unknown woman previously identified as Mary Queen of Scots (DN14). There is no evidence, however, to indicate whether they relate to the occupancy of the Tailor families or to subsequent inhabitants. Nor can the identification of an oval portrait at Doddington of a young woman holding an urn (DN101) as a member of the Tailor family be sustained Indeed none of the collection’s unidentified seventeenth-century portraits that are speculatively named as Tailor can be verified. By his death in 1607 Thomas Tailor I had accrued considerable property and land across Lincolnshire although anecdotal evidence suggests that he had little interest in art, his priority being apparently to hoard his personal fortune.3 It would also appear that his principal residence was in the city of Lincoln – where his business interests lay – rather than nearby rural Doddington, which represented a signal of status and success rather than a home.

It was with the arrival of the Hussey family at Doddington, through the marriage of Sir Edward Hussey of Honington (DN18) to John Tailor I’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Anton, that the nucleus of a picture collection began to take shape. The Husseys brought with them to Doddingon a number of ancestral portraits, notably a sixteenth-century panel painting of Sir Robert Throckmorton, his wife Elizabeth Hussey, his four daughters and infant son (DN27). However, following the sequestration of the Husseys’ estates during the Civil War for supporting the Royalist cause, it was not until the Restoration that Doddington came to be regarded as a significant Hussey family home. And it was during the occupancy of Thomas Hussey (DN24), grandson of Sir Edward, that in 1705 the engraved bird’s-eye view of Doddington Hall and its estate was made by Leonard Knyff and John Kip, as part of the celebrated series Britannia Illustrata (fig. 1). It was also Thomas Hussey who commissioned a series of three-quarter-length portraits of his three daughters (DN22, DN23 and DN25), including two by Kneller, which were subsequently converted into full lengths (DN1 and DN2). The significance of these commissions is underlined by the fact that Thomas Hussey’s six sons predeceased him and on his death the ownership of Doddington passed to his daughters, Rebecca, Elizabeth and Sarah Hussey, who became co-heirs to the Doddington estate. It was from Sarah Hussey that Doddington passed to her daughter Rhoda Apreece (DN53 and DN58), who in 1724 married Captain Francis Blake Delaval (DN56), heir to Seaton Delaval and Ford Castle, Northumberland.

Doddington in the County of Lincoln, from Britannia Illustrata series, plate 63

Figure 1.
Jan Kip after Leonard Knyff, Doddington in the County of Lincoln, from Britannia Illustrata series, plate 63, 1707. Etching, 35.2 × 49 cm. The British Museum (M,21.63).

Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

With the advent of the Delavals at Doddington, a new and more intensive phase of collecting was inaugurated. Francis Blake Delaval and his wife Rhoda (who retained ownership of Doddington in her own right) had inherited an extensive property portfolio that contained, as well as the property and estates in Northumberland and Lincolnshire, a prestigious London address in Downing Street. From the 1730s Francis and Rhoda Delaval commissioned a series of family portraits, including full-size group portraits of their offspring from leading artists in the metropolis, notably Arthur Pond (including DN55, DN57 and DN64). It is quite likely that some of these portraits, now displayed at Doddington, may have been located previously at the family’s homes in London and Northumberland, being moved about according to personal preference, taste and circumstance. It is important to remember that pictures – even larger ones –were regarded as portable chattels, and portraits in particular could either reinforce a family’s personal presence in a house or else provide a substitute during frequent or prolonged periods of absence. What we can affirm, using the evidence of an inventory made of the contents of Doddington in 1753, is that prior to the major renovation of the interior of the house in the early 1760s by Sir John Delaval – who had inherited the property from his mother, Rhoda – there does not appear to have been an extensive picture collection in situ.

It was during the 1760s that Sir John Hussey Delaval (1728–1808), second son of Francis Blake Delaval and Rhoda Apreece, spearheaded the commissioning of further Delaval family portraits featuring himself and his siblings, including impressive full lengths by Benjamin Wilson, Joshua Reynolds, Samuel Cotes and Katharine Read. This was in effect the ‘golden age’ of portraiture at Doddington, coinciding with a period in which Sir John sought to ally the financial fortunes of the Delavals to political prominence at a national level and a rise through the ranks of the aristocracy. It was through his ambition to maintain his position as head of the family, following the death of his elder brother Francis in 1771, that Sir John gained possession of the principal Delaval properties and their collections, including Seaton Delaval, which Francis had inherited as eldest son. According to the terms of his mother’s will Sir John should also then have ceded Doddington Hall to his younger brother, Edward. Instead, he resisted Edward’s claims and, in order to keep possession, paid him an annuity to stay away. The situation was complicated further by the fact that Sir John now preferred Seaton Delaval as his country seat, commissioning from the Newcastle artist William Bell a new series of full-length portraits in the 1770s of himself and his children to hang there. At this time, Sir John would have regarded the works of art at Seaton Delaval, Doddington and his other residences as components of an extended Delaval family collection, one that reflected his self-appointed role as paterfamilias and head of a venerable dynasty going back to his Norman forbear Guy de la Val, who had fought alongside William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

Sir John’s own battles in later life were more mundane and involved internecine squabbles with his various siblings, who contested vigorously his stranglehold on the family’s property and possessions. Following the death of his only son and heir in 1775, Sir John was faced with the prospect of the entailed family properties, Seaton Delaval and Doddington, being inherited by his estranged brother, Edward. In order to maintain possession of his pictures at Seaton he moved them to Ford Castle, Northumberland, which he had purchased outright from his elder brother, Francis. Ford Castle and its collection passed ultimately to his granddaughter, Lady Sarah Hussey Carpenter, wife of the second Marquess of Waterford. On the sale of Ford Castle in 1907 the collection, with the Delaval pictures, was moved to Curraghmore, the Waterford family seat in Ireland. Those pictures that remained at Doddington Hall passed to Edward Delaval, who succeeded Sir John on his death in 1808.

Edward, who was in every respect quite different from Sir John, was a distinguished scholar and chemist. Although he preferred to reside for the most part in London, where he lived in a Gothic house of his own design by the Thames in Parliament Place, Edward Delaval spent his summers at Doddington and made repairs and improvements to the house and estate, which had been sorely neglected since Sir John had centred his attention on Seaton Delaval. ‘Many articles of furniture, pictures, and ornaments’ were also transported from Seaton Delaval by Edward, although precise details are lacking.4 Edward Delaval’s brief period of ownership resulted in a number of pictures from his own collection being relocated to Doddington, including several portraits of himself (DN77, DN94 and DN95), his daughter by Sir Thomas Lawrence (DN43) and two pendant views of his Thameside garden (DN78 and DN79). It is not certain when these works entered the collection at Doddington, but it may have been either on Edward gaining residency or possibly following his death in 1814. At this time ownership of Doddington passed to Edward’s daughter, Sarah, who became principal heiress of the property.5 Seaton Delaval, including its remaining picture collection, passed to Edward’s nephew, Sir Jacob Astley, son of his sister Rhoda and her husband, Sir Edward Astley, fourth Baronet. Seaton Delaval remained the seat of the Astley family until 2009, when it was sold to the National Trust. The picture collection presently on display at Seaton Delaval includes, notably, portraits of members of the Delaval and Astley families, some of which may at one time or another have been at Doddington.

Following Edward Delaval’s death in 1814, the male Delaval line was extinct. At that time the picture collection comprised principally portraits of the Hussey and Delaval families. Notable exceptions included Hagar and Ishmael by the seventeenth-century Bolognese artist Marcantonio Franchescini (DN103), Cimon and Iphigenia by Sir Peter Lely (DN28) and a late genre painting by Zoffany, A Beggar’s Family (DN36). The collection was to undergo two more significant accretions, which contributed to its complex and varied character. The first addition was instigated in 1805, when Edward Delaval’s daughter Sarah married James Gunman, great grandson of the distinguished British naval officer Christopher Gunman (DN66), who commissioned a number of paintings of ships and naval engagements now at Doddington (DN69, DN70 and DN72). On James Gunman’s death in 1824 his property and possessions, including his naval papers and family pictures, passed to Sarah Delaval and were integrated into the collection at Doddington. In May 1825, less than a year after her husband’s death, Sarah Gunman died. Four years later in 1829 her mother, Sarah Hussey-Delaval, widow of Edward Delaval, died. Her death ushered in the final phase of the collection at Doddington and the end of the Delaval bloodline.

According to the terms of her will, Sarah Gunman bequeathed Doddington Hall, its contents and collection, to Lieutenant-Colonel George Ralph Payne Jarvis (DN44), a wealthy widower with whom she had formed a close relationship in Dover, through her husband. In 1830 Jarvis purchased from Lord Mexborough, whose grandfather had married into the Delaval family, the remaining share of the Doddington estate, bringing it entirely under his ownership. On taking up residence at Doddington Hall, Jarvis brought with him a collection of eighteenth-century family portraits that he had inherited from his first wife, Philadelphia Blackwell, who had died in 1816. These portraits, which currently line the staircases at Doddington, include members of the Blackwell, Lowth and Eden families, notably the theologian William Lowth (DN49) and, by John Vanderbank, his daughter Martha (DN32). During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries George Jarvis’s descendants continued to add works of art to the collection, including several family portraits in the present catalogue. The current owners of Doddington Hall are Claire Birch, daughter of Antony and Victoria Jarvis (DN41 and DN42), and her husband, James Birch.


  • Dr Martin Postle is Deputy Director for Grants and Publications at the Paul Mellon Centre. Between 1998 and 2007 he was Head of British Art to 1900 at Tate. Martin's research and publication interests focus principally on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British art, including portraiture, landscape and the history of art academies. He has curated exhibitions on a wide range of subjects, including the artist’s model, the Fancy Picture and the art of the garden, as well as monographic exhibitions on Joshua Reynolds, Johan Zoffany, Richard Wilson, Stanley Spencer and George Stubbs. Martin is project leader and commissioning editor of ‘Art & the Country House’, to which he has contributed a number of essays and catalogue entries.


  1. Funding for the photography was supported by a grant provided by the generosity of the Finnis Scott Foundation.

  2. James Birch, Doddington Hall and Gardens, n.d., p. 7.

  3. R. E. G. Cole, History of Doddington, otherwise Doddington-Pigot, in the County of Lincoln, and its successive owners, with pedigrees, James Williamson: Lincoln, 1897, pp. 62–6.

  4. Cole, 1897, p. 191.

  5. Cole, 1897, p. 207.



by Martin Postle
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Martin Postle, "Catalogue of Paintings: Introduction", Art and the Country House,