10 July 1768: Sydney Parkinson’s Will

London July 10th 1768.

I SIDNEY PARKINSON Painter of the Parish of St. Ann’s Soho, being to set out on a long and hazardous Voyage from which God alone knows whether I shall ever return | I thought it proper to settle my Affairs so as what may be due unto me or what Things I may have may go to those of my Friends who most needs it. For which reason I desire that my Sister Britannia Parkinson may have what may be due unto me by Joseph Banks Esquire of New Burlington Street London from whom I have eighty pounds yearly and who has paid me up to Augst. 10th. 1768 and ten Guineas more; the Money that I happen to receive from him when abroad must also be deducted. 2dly Out of the kind regard I bear to my Friend William Galbreath peruke-maker I desire that he may have one Guinea out of every Quarters Salary that may be due unto me of the aforesaid. 3dly I desire that my paintings on Vellum &c. may be given to those for whom they are marked on the Back and whatever utensils that are useful in Painting or Drawing to Mr. Lee’s Daughter my Scholar | All my other loose Things I leave unto my Brother Stanfield and I hope this will be executed as faithfully as if it had been wrote in all the Forms of the Law being signed by me in the presence of William Galbreath Witness–

Sydney (or Sidney!) Parkinson’s will (National Archives PROB 11/972/4) is an interesting document in that it is one of the most personal documents connected with his life still in existence (though it is the clerk’s copy, rather than the original draft, which remains). It was written just twelve days before he embarked on the Endeavour while it was docked at Galleons Reach in the River Thames. It gives a brief but compelling insight into Parkinson’s London life prior to the time of his voyage.

The first item of interest is the spelling of “Sidney” and his self-identification as “Painter of the Parish of St. Ann’s Soho.” Around 1767, Parkinson seems to have begun spelling his given name variably as “Sidney” rather than the more commonly used “Sydney.” This small detail, may, in fact, be a clue to Parkinson’s London address! In 1765 and 1766, Sydney Parkinson exhibited “drawings in red chalk” and “flower paintings on silk” at the Free Society of Artists’ exhibition rooms, number 21 Maiden Lane (later the birthplace of J.M.W. Turner–see James Hamilton 2007, Turner ). In the Free Society records, Parkinson’s address is listed as Queen’s Head Court. According to the Westminster Archives rate books, this address (off Windmill Street) was occupied by Stanfield Parkinson and his wife, Sarah Taylor, so Sydney Parkinson may have stayed with his brother’s family while looking for a permanent residence. (NB: Averil Lysaght, Rüdiger Joppien / Bernard Smith, and other historians have erroneously identified it as “off Tottenham Court Road,” but it is clear from the rate books that Queen’s Head Court off Windmill Street / Piccadilly is the correct address.) However, Queen’s Head Court is in the Parish of St. James, so by the date of his will in 1768, Parkinson must have found other accommodations in the nearby parish of St. Ann’s. It is clear that he did not own these lodgings, as his name does not appear in any of the St. Ann’s rate books for the period 1767-1771. However, one address on Sidney Street is shown to be the property of William and Elizabeth Hayhurst. Since it is Eliza Hayhurst, a Quaker, who in October 1771 affirmed the authenticity of Sydney’s will and signature, it may be that Parkinson was by that time renting rooms from the Hayhursts at the Sidney Street address. If this is the case, he had some talented neighbors: William Taverner lived just across the street, and a “Mr. Green” nearby may have been the Endeavour‘s astronomer!

That Parkinson’s older sister Britannia was the primary beneficiary of his income may have been a matter of form: as the youngest son, Sydney Parkinson was burdened with the duty to provide for his widowed mother and unmarried sister before he could consider the additional financial burdens of marriage or children of his own. It is possible that Elizabeth Parkinson may have had some other provision for her welfare, or it may have been that Britannia was by then the manager of her mother’s affairs. In any case, her own prospects for an independent income were more limited than those of her brothers, so it is to Britannia that Sydney left his income. Parkinson kept notes in the back pages of his sketchbook (British Library Add. MS 9345) regarding monies paid to him by Banks–“London £20, Rio and Mad[eira] £5, Batavia__”–for the purposes of accounting the total owed to him at the end of the voyage, or to his family in the event of his demise. (For more discussion of this, see Joppien / Smith, The Art of Captain Cook’s Voyages Vol I, p. 51.)

The second beneficiary of Parkinson’s small estate is “my Friend William Galbreath, peruke-maker.” Despite the capitalized “Friend,” Galbreath may not have been a fellow Quaker. This William Galbreath may have been the same individual described by researcher Simon Parker-Galbreath, as the William Galbreath to whom he refers was the same age as Sydney Parkinson and had an older brother, Thomas, who was Stanfield Parkinson’s age. At the time of William Galbreath’s death aged 40 in 1785, he was unmarried and living in Wood Street, London; in his will (PROB 11/1127/178) this address is followed by the words “Scotch factor” which indicates he was in the business of importing goods–especially textiles–from London (see this discussion by Derek Sharpe). To date, I have been unable to find any reference to another William Galbreath living in London during this period. It’s disconcerting to know so little about the young man Sydney Parkinson considered his best friend.

Parkinson then deals with the question of the things most dear to him–his paintings and his painting equipment. Although he states that the paintings should be distributed “to those for whom they are marked on the Back,” no extant paintings of his are known to bear names on the reverse, but many have been trimmed from the original size to facilitate framing or folio storage and so may have lost the inscription (including examples from the Grylls family now located at Oak Spring Garden Library, Virginia, and those from the James Lee collection now at the National Library of Australia). The painting equipment he leaves to “Mr. Lee’s Daughter, my Scholar” and although this bequest is a rather practical consideration, it’s also a very personal gesture–an acknowledgement of Ann’s ability and the fact that she is heir to his “trade secrets” as well as his paintbrushes and pigments. (Though it’s also possible that Ann nearly died as the result of a bad habit she may have learned from Parkinson–but more on that in a future post!) Verecunda, the author of the Tumblr blog “By God, I’ll not lose Hardy!”, has a very detailed and sympathetic blog post regarding this clause in Sydney’s will (which is well-cited and has several great links to Ann’s artwork, so long as one can humor a plethora of Millennial colloquialisms, strange nicknames–I wonder what Sir Joseph Banks would think of  “JoJo”?–and graphic-novel punctuation…).

Stanfield, at the end of the will, gets rather the short end of the stick, considering the intense legal battle he eventually waged in order to secure the rights to access and publish his brother’s papers. It is small wonder he was counting every “sleeve-button”, spoon, pocketwatch, and fishhook he felt was missing from the inventory of his brother’s Endeavour possessions! I suspect the relationship between the two brothers was complicated and sometimes fraught (but more on this to come).


As always, my writing is a work in progress, so if you have questions to ask, information to share, or general feedback, please don’t hesitate to email me: esmith@randolphcollege.edu.



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