Thursday, 15 March 2012


The horse in this fine painting is Carpenter, a hunter belonging to the second Lord Craven (1668 - 1711). Carpenter, a grey, was said to be William Craven's favourite horse. He is pictured here against a backdrop that could well be the Lambourn Downs close to Ashdown. The picture was part of the Craven Collection until sold in the 1980s.

Carpenter was painted in 1701 by Robert Byng, a pupil of Sir Godfrey Kneller. Byng also painted a portrait of Craven's two sons William and Fulwar, both of whom went on to inherit the Craven barony. Not much is known about the second Baron Craven, the grandson of a cousin of the first Earl. He was 29 when he succeeded to the Craven estates and to the barony but not the earldom. His main seat was at Combe Abbey and according to Penelope Stokes' invaluable book "Craven Country" a contemporary described him as "fat and fair, fond of field sports and the bottle." He was a typical Tory squire of his day. He married Elizabeth Skipwith, sister of Sir Fulwar Skipwith of Newbold Hall, another Warwickshire landowner. She died in childbirth. William held the traditional offices of High Steward of Newbury and Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire.

William commissioned a survey of all his estates, of which there were twenty six (!) listing the tenants and their leases. At this time the Uffington estate, of which Ashdown was the big house, was one of the largest of his holdings.

In the painting, Carpenter is held by Lord Craven's black page. It seems likely that Lord Craven, who was a Lord Proprietor of Carolina, brought some of his household slaves to Britain to work as servants. From the late 17th century a black page was a fashionable accessory in many aristocratic households. At the end of the 18th century the First Earl of Craven of the 2nd Creation is recorded as having at least one male black servant working at Hamstead Marshall.


Minerva Black said...

I love the way you continue to find history of Ashdown House and it's owners. This is a lovely painting and Carpenter is certainly a handsome hunter. It is a shame that the painting was sold, it is always nice to have the items that orginally furnished these houses intact. But of curse so many are sold through history.

Minerva x

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you, Minerva. Yes, a lot of the Craven Collection was sold and split up but I think we are very lucky still to have such a wonderful portrait collection in the house.

whitehorsepilgrim said...

He is an attractive horse. The small racing-style saddle is interesting - I doubt whether his owner hunted in such tack. (Especially not if he was fat.) His cropped tail is curious too, as is the stylised "mountain" landscape.

So, Ashdown House is another National Trust property associated with black slavery. It would be nice to think that the imported individuals were elevated to servants and free citizens in Britain. However the painting adds a sense of context - pretty as the house and grounds are, at least one owner profited from an evil institution. Not everything about the property is picturesque.

Nicola Cornick said...

A very interesting insight into the details of the horse and painting, whitehorsepilgrim, thank you. Yes, Ashdown, like many other grand houses, has its connections to slavery.