Biography Victorian Chatelaine
James Lomax (To order, send a cheque for £37.50 to Leeds Art Fund, c/o Temple Newsam House, Leeds LS15 0AE)
In May, 1871, Hugo Meynell Ingram died following a hunting accident on his Staffordshire estate, Hoar Cross. His will caused a sensation: he left everything, including his coal-rich lands at Temple newsam, near Leeds, to his childless widow, Emily. The Meynell Ingram lands were unentailed—hugo was the last of his line—and so, at the age of only 30, she became one of the richest women in the country. It was a bitter inheritance: her husband’s family cut off all relations with her.
In grief, Emily turned to building. She is now best remembered as the patron of a famous church, Holy angels, designed by Bodley and Garner and built at Hoar Cross as a mausoleum for her husband. Guided by her strong artistic instincts—she was a talented painter—and anglo-catholic piety, she took a close interest in every aspect of the design of this extraordinary, highly wrought building. When it was opened in 1876, she wrote: ‘The church was the first thing which really made me wish to live.’
James Lomax encountered Emily’s name when, as a curator at Temple newsam, he became intrigued by her antiquarian remodelling of this great Jacobean house, which was sold in 1922 to Leeds Corporation for use as a museum. His engagingly written and well-illustrated biography places Emily’s career as an architectural patron in the context of the practical and emotional challenges she faced in forging an independent life. although she never remarried, she was constrained by the claustrophobically limited opportunities for women in late-victorian England, no matter how rich or well-born.
Drawing on extensive family archives, Mr Lomax depicts in engrossing detail the evolution of Emily’s character, from an indulged, headstrong childhood to self-absorbed grief and, eventually, a degree of emotional equilibrium, helped by her enthusiasm for the sea. In 1885, she acquired a yacht, The Ariadne, and Mr Lomax entertainingly describes Emily’s trips round the Baltic and Mediterranean, visiting churches and buying art.
He also publishes in an appendix a delightful memoir by Emily’s nephew Francis Wood of his childhood at Temple newsam in the 1880s and 1890s. This small gem is alone worth the price of the book, handsomely published by the Leeds art Fund, which has done so much to support the city’s public collections. Michael Hall