Papers of the Westmacott family

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive contains nine sketchbooks and two portfolios of drawings by various members of the Westmacott family. These comprise two albums of sketchbooks by Sir Richard Westmacott; the first contains studies of Antique and Renaissance sculpture and landscapes and the second is a topographical sketchbook of Scotland and England. There are five sketchbooks by his son, the sculptor, Richard Westmacott the Younger (1799-1872). Three of these contain figure and topographical drawings. One is an album of drawings of landscapes made whilst he was on the Continent, 1820-1826, and the remaining sketchbook contains studies of Antique and Renaissance sculpture and paintings. There are two sketch books of architecture, landscapes and botanical drawings by William Berners Westmacott (brother of Sir Richard) and two portfolios of drawings and watercolours by various hands. The papers relating to Sir Richard Westmacott include a notebook detailing a journey to Scotland and a list of drawings left at Woburn Abbey in 1835, and a printed pamphlet about his sculpture 'Psyche', c1822. Richard Westmacott the Younger's papers comprise a notebook on sculpture; an alphabetical notebook on various subjects; a manuscript of his story 'How a man may marry his Grandmother'; fifteen letters from Italy written to his brother, William, 1821-1824; two copies of the publication 'The Fighte of Freewill: a Moral Allegory', 1839; and his leather drawing case. Additional material includes a copy of Edward Smirke's 'Remarks on the Gem of the Laocoon' and other printed matter; three travel journals by Richard Westmacott the Younger's son, Edgell; various engravings of classical and architectural subjects; press cuttings relating to the family; a scrapbook of fashion plates, c.1830; and a scrapbook of various nineteenth-century prints and drawings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Three consecutive generations of the Westmacott family were sculptors and two of these generations are represented in the archive, Sir Richard Westmacott (1775-1856) and his son Richard Westmacott the Younger (1799-1872).Richard Westmacott the Elder (1746-1808) worked chiefly as a monumental sculptor in marble and also made a number of chimney pieces. He married Sarah Vardy, daughter of the furniture carver Thomas Vardy, and they had at least thirteen children, of which Sir Richard was the eldest. Several other family members pursued artistic careers:Thomas Westmacott (1780?-98) died only three weeks after he received the Royal Academy Silver Medal for Architecture.Captain John Westmacott (1783-1816) trained for three years as an architect under James Wyatt, and won the Academy's Gold Medal before joining the army, where he served under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War. He died from wounds suffered during the assault of Halifax, Nova Scotia.George (1782-1864) and Henry (1784-1861) also enjoyed modest careers as sculptors.William Berners Westmacott (1792/3-1880), brother of Sir Richard Westmacott, trained and practised as an architect and exhibited periodically at the Royal Academy.Sir Richard Westmacott (1775-1856)Sir Richard Westmacott was born in London on 15 July 1775, and at 14 was apprenticed to his maternal grandfather, Thomas Vardy. He travelled the continent in 1792, studying at the Accademia di S Luca in Rome (1793-6), and during this period he made the acquaintance of Antonio Canova. Upon his return from Italy in 1796 he set up his own studio close to his father and in 1798 married Dorothy Margaret Wilkinson. Only their first child, Richard, became a sculptor. They eventually had seven other children: Dorothy, Robert, Eliza, Horatio, Arthur, Maria and George Spencer, all of whom survived to maturity.His practice soon grew, and in 1797 he made his debut at the Royal Academy. He was elected an Associate in 1805 and became a full member six years later. In 1827 he succeeded John Flaxman becoming the second Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy and ten years later he was knighted.He became the leading sculptor for monuments of his generation, winning many prestigious government and private commissions, including monuments for Lord Nelson, George III, Charles James Fox and William Pitt. His public monuments presented classical allegorical themes, and lifelike portraiture in contemporary dress, and he was also known for his funerary sculpture. He exhibited at the Royal Academy for the last time in 1839 and died in 1856.Richard Westmacott the Younger (1799-1872)Richard Westmacott the Younger (1799-1872) was born in London on 14 April 1799, and was the eldest son of Sir Richard Westmacott. He wanted at first to become a barrister but at his father's request trained as a sculptor in the latter's studio. After attending Royal Academy Schools he spent several years in Italy (1820-26). He returned and began work in his father's studio in Mayfair, London. He married Caroline Elizabeth Edgell in 1845, and had a son, Edgell. He produced church monuments, gallery portraits and also marble chimney pieces. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1827 to 1855 becoming RA in 1849 and succeeding his father as Professor of Sculpture in 1857. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society, to which he was elected in 1837, and a well know lecturer on art. He published 'The Handbook of Ancient and Modern Sculpture' in 1864. Also, 'Outlines to Illustrate a Moral Allegory', entitled 'The Fighte of Freewille', of eight plates engraved from his designs with descriptive text appeared in 1839.He retired from the Royal Academy in 1871 and died at 1 Kensington Gate, Hyde Park, London, on 19 April 1872.Arthur Westmacott (1815-1894), son of Dorothy and Sir Richard Westmacott, pursued a career in law. From 1839 to 1842 he lived in New South Wales with his brother, the soldier and artist Captain Robert Marsh Westmacott, before supposedly returning to England. Arthur's published writings relating to his stay in Australia included 'The 'Australian Aborigines,'' Colonial Magazine and East India Review 21 (1851) and 'A Plea on Behalf of the Aboriginal Inhabitants of Victoria' (Geelong: Advertiser Office, 1856). Arthur Westmacott also appears to have published under the pseudonym 'Athelwode'.

Conditions Governing Access

Available to all registered researchers. The Archive is open by appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

The archive is in the processing of being catalogued and has been arranged into the following series order:

  • WES/A Sir Richard Westmacott
  • WES/B Arthur Westmacott
  • WES/C William Berners Westmacott
  • WES/D Richard Westmacott the Younger
  • WES/E Caroline Westmacott
  • WES/F Edgell Westmacott
  • WES/G Mary E. Morgan
  • WES/Misc Westmacott Papers

Please contact the HMI Archivist for further information.

Archivist's Note

Archive Hub description was created by Janette Martin

Related Material

For other Westmacott papers see the National Register of Archives