Number 7 in a series of collaborative posts. This one by Richard Tillett with comment by Martin Smith.
In our last post we revealed what we have discovered about the artist’s life up to around 1816. To recap: Thomas Leeming was born, we think, in Lancashire around 1788; by 1809 had settled in London where he plied his trade as a portrait painter and miniaturist; and by 1814 he had started to pick up commissions from the upper echelons of Herefordshire society.
At some point in his Hereford networking he happened upon a young woman still in her teens by the name of Mary Link, the daughter of Ellinor and George Link. Her father was a wine merchant in the city who had been made a freeman in 1799, the year after Mary was born.
"The game is mine, she cries with joy, you can't prevent checkmate"The relationship blossomed. Mary’s mother Ellinor, by then widowed, gave her consent and on 22 April 1817 the couple tied the knot at the parish church of St Peter’s Hereford. They opted to marry by licence rather than banns, which meant that Thomas had to sign a marriage bond in case any “lawful let or impediment” should emerge subsequently. The amount of the surety was set at £100, suggesting he was a man of modest but adequate means. One of the chessplaying gents, Theophilus Lane (the chess player on the far right in Leeming's picture), acted as his bondsman.
by George Watson (1767-1837).
by George Watson (1767-1837).
The couple set up home at Thomas’s London house. The following year their first child, Thomas James was born. It seems Mary returned to Hereford for the birth, as the child was baptized at St Peter’s.
At this point Thomas’s London friend, the lawyer James Buckton, enters our story. He’s the confident looking gent in the red coat, the son of affluent North London parents and some five years Thomas’s junior.
Buckton was affiliated to a civil law institution called the Doctors' Commons (there’s a Wikipedia entry about it here). We don’t know how Thomas and James got to know each other – there’s was not an obvious friendship given the differences in age, background and occupation. Perhaps they met at the London Chess Club, which had its venue at Tom’s Coffee House in Cornhill just a short walk from the Doctors' Commons building in Knightrider Street.
Print of Doctors' Commons in London from a drawing by Augustus Pugin Senior and Thomas Rowlandson for Ackermann's Microcosm of London (1808-11).
In April 1819 James and Eliza married, not at St Peter’s Hereford but at St George’s Hanover Square, Thomas and Mary’s parish church in Mayfair. Thomas was one of the witnesses.
Happy days, but they were not to last. It seems that Thomas and Mary lost their first born son, though we haven’t been able to confirm this for certain. Mary gave birth to a second son in 1821, but little Angelo survived for only 13 months.
Poor Mary. She was scarcely 24 years old but had lost two babies and a husband. Nor was she well provided for – Thomas’s estate, all of which he bequeathed to her, amounted to just £100. One of the witnesses to his last will and testament was James Buckton.
In our next blog (9 April) we make two more visits to Hereford where we rummage around in the archives, visit the cathedral again, and take tea with some present day chess gents.
Details of the lives of Thomas Leeming, the Links and the Bucktons drawn from:
International Genealogical Index
London Metropolitan Archives
Westminster City Archives
Herefordshire Record Office
The Buckton Family History website
Chess in Art index