January 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm (estates) (, , , , , , , , , )

How difficult it is to ‘blog’ when one’s personal life generates an excessively ‘blue’  mood… never mind the TON of snow I’ve shifted today (winter blues don’t help either). But I do have one find I’d like to share — before it is too late and the images disappear:

On 20 January 2010, Christie’s auction house will put under the gavel contents from Newton Hall, the ancestral home of the Widdringtons. The short history of the Widdringtons, as concerns us here, is as follows:

William Gosling, Mary’s father, had two sisters. Maria married Henry Gregg, and was known to Mary as Aunt Gregg; the other died before Mary’s (extant) diaries commence, though her death is noted in Charles’ diary for 1826: Harriet Davison, wife of Alexander Davison of Swarland Hall (Northumbria). Mr Davison figures in the history of Admiral Nelson and his own auction took place in 2000 — the items became the subject of Martyn Downer’s excellent book Nelson’s Purse.

The Davisons had among their children Dorothy; she married Capt. Cook – who later took the name Widdrington. The miniature that comes up for sale on the 20th resided at Newton Hall all these decades because it once belonged to Dorothy! Mary’s diaries mention Dorothy and her husband, as well as other Davison siblings.

The description for Lot 118/Sale 5984 “Harriet Davison (1770-1826) of Swarland Hall” is “English School, c1790. Harriet Davison née Gosling, in white muslin wrap-front dress, white pearl-bordered bandeau in her powdered curling hair.  On ivory. Oval 3 5/16 inch (85 mm) high, gilt-metal frame, the reverse centered with lock of hair and gold wire on opalescent glass panel, within translucent blue glass surround, within velvet-lined hinged burgundy leather travelling case.”

The estimate: £1,500-2000.

She’s a little beauty!

There are a couple other miniatures of family – but I must be quick and will leave the searching up to viewers. One that I simply must mention, however, is a painting on ivory done by young Dorothy (b1794). The curious thing is that this is a copy of a quite “famous” etching of Mary’s Aunt, Mrs Drummond Smith, as a child (Lot 124) [estimate £300-500]. Compare it to the etching, held at the National Portrait Gallery (Mary Cunliffe).

This page shows some other items relating to Dorothy Widdrington: her sketchbook (Lot 121; estimate: £1,500-2500], a loose drawing (lot 123; estimate: £600-900), a miniature of her in old age (Lot 122; estimate £200-400). Capt. Samuel Edward Widdrington, Royal Navy (formerly, Cook) can be seen (and look at the sprigs of hair peeping through from the backside!) in his own miniature (Lot 126; estimate: £800-1200).

How envious I am that the family have such items – and, as someone with so little to show from my own family, I wonder: How can they part with them?? Wish I had a couple thousand pounds; I would go on a shopping spree!


  1. Antonio Sánchez Briones said,

    Dear madam:
    First of all, my congratulations for your website.
    I’m a Spanish admirer of Samuel Edward Cook (later Widdrington) for his books about Spain and his defense of democratic values. I’ve translated his “Sketches in Spain…” and investigated about his history and family. Dorothy Davison (1794-1865), as you point, was his wife. They got married in 1832 and had no children. There are some data I would like to know about him:
    1. An image of his mother, Sarah Brown (of Hauxley, later Widdrington, who gave this surname to her descendants at her death, 1840).
    2. Details of his life after leaving the Royal Navy.
    3. Access to his 1838 book: “Observations on the Present State of War in Spain”, quite unknown.
    Perhaps you would like to see my preface to Cook’s “Sketches in Spain…” translation, which contains some pictures and as much documentation about him as I could get. Just pass me an e-mail to send.
    I would welcome any information about this writer.
    Health and harmony.
    Antonio Briones.

    • Janeite Kelly said,

      Ola, Antonio — how thrilling to hear about YOUR work.

      I don’t know that I have much about either him or his wife (the Goslings are a tough side of my research — though I’m still looking!)

      I would indeed LOVE to see your preface. My email: smithandgosling [at] gmail [dot] com

      I sometimes have good luck in locating books – so will start with your request for his 1838 book.

      I do have a couple of contacts working on Davison (afraid it’s the sons of the family more than the daughters), but one never knows who has come across what in their searches. Because Dorothy is a Gosling cousin, and sometimes appears in diaries (which are NEVER super-informative), she’s on my radar, but off to the side – and she married later in life… But I’ll help where I can!

      Thanks so much for getting in touch! Kelly

      • Janeite Kelly said,

        Hi, again, Antonio – IMAGES are often the hardest items to come by; I emailed you information on the book (more pamphlet-length, I’m afraid, from what I saw in WorldCat). I also emailed a link to the Newton Hall auction (Christie’s auction house); it retains its images — which is no longer the case at Christie’s own website. I did not pause long enough to look at the named portraits. This was the sale at which the miniature of Harriet (Harriot) Davison, nee Gosling [pictured above] sold. Sarah Brown, S.E. Cook’s mother, had inherited Newton Hall – as did (after his death) S.E. Widdrington’s (ne Cook) own widow. But, as I’ve never searched for Sarah, I will take a look and see what I find. Dorothy Davison was represented in a portrait sold at that sale (but one done in old age). Hate to say, it really saddened me to see so many FAMILY images in the sale. Kelly

  2. Antonio Sánchez Briones said,

    Hi, Janeite. Unfortunately I lost your email when liberating space in my stuffed gmail account. But there are good news aside from this. I tell you: thanks to your information I could get a special pdf copy from Cambridge University of the rare book by Samuel Edward Cook. I translated its 48 unknown pages (a defense of Lord Palmerston’s policy towards Spain and against Lord Porchester´s -3rd Earl of Carnarvon- about the first Spanish Carlist war). I considered it very interesting and, by chance, I read some articles on that war by a Basque historian, don Carlos Rilova. I showed him my work, he showed it to the leading people at the cultural section of an important bank; the work was admitted to examination and it’s very likely to be published!
    So, many thanks again. I would give you by email lots of details about the book, the whigs and tories involved in it, the very interesting ideas of Mr. Cook (1837, not yet Widdrington), etc. Just write to my email.

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