Fry Family Archive

Samuel Metford silhouettes


The Fry Family belonged to the Quaker community and it is well recorded that early Quakers did not sanction portraiture, believing it to be vain. The plainness of black profiles was, however, acceptable to them and central to this extensive archive of family documents is a fine group of eight silhouettes cut and bronzed by the Anglo-American silhouettist Samuel Metford (1810-1896) who, as a Quaker himself, worked almost exclusively within that community.

The silhouettes cover four generations of the Fry family who lived at Woodgate, Culmstock in Devon. The Metford silhouettes are all signed and are further inscribed on the reverse with the sitter’s name, the date, and often their height –

  • Jane Fry of Woodgate 174?-1825. Her maiden name was Coleman. She married Robert Fry. Painted bust-length on paper watermarked 1831, this was therefore painted posthumously.

And her son:

  • William Fry of Woodgate (1773-1860) seated holding a letter and his glasses; dated 1848.

And his son:

  • Robert Fry 5 feet 9½ in. 11 Mo: 1848 – wearing a frock-coat and holding a sealed letter. Robert was born 4 February 1800, died summer 1879. He was a corn and seed merchant.
  • Jane Parsons Fry 5 feet 3¼ in. 11 Mo: 1848 – wearing a fringed shawl and holding a reticule. Jane died in 1876 after a lingering and painful illness.

And their children:

  • Sarah Jane Fry 5 feet 2 in. 11 Mo: 1848 – holding a book. Sarah was born in 1829.
  • Edward Fry at Sidcot School 1849 – holding a cricket bat. Edward was born in 1834.
  • Lewis Fry at Sidcot School 1849 – holding a slate or book and pen. Lewis was born in 1835 and died in 1908.
  • Catherine Fry 4 feet 3 in. 11 Mo: 1848 – holding a basket. Catherine was born in 1838.
  • Isabella Fry 3 feet 7 in. 11 Mo: 1848 – holding a doll. Isabella was born in 1841.

The silhouettes are unframed and, bar the odd age-spot and slightly upturned corner, are in very good condition.

The boys were educated at the Quaker School of Sidcot. Edward moved to Ipswich where he too worked as a corn merchant. He married Annette Ransome from Jersey and with her had seven children. He died in 1892.

Lewis was apprenticed first to the grocery business of Josiah Newman in Cirencester and then in Leominster. He married Mary Cruickshank from Aberdeen but they had no children. Lewis was appointed to take charge of the Rowntree apprentices and assistants, but the strain proved too much for his health and in 1870 he moved to Newcastle where he was an accountant to a leather manufacturers. He is said to have given vocal ministry frequently in Newcastle Quaker meetings and taught in the adult school. He retired to Wensleydale in 1876, and died of pneumonia in 1908.

In the 1871 Census all three girls were unmarried and still living with their parents.

The silhouettes are accompanied by a treasure trove of family documents including, amongst much else:

  • Quaker marriage certificate hand-written on vellum for William Fry and Sarah Hancock, dated 25 April 1798 and signed in the Quaker tradition by all the wedding guests.
  • Birth certificates on vellum of Robert Fry (1800) and Edward Fry (1834)
  • Probate of the will of William Fry deceased, on vellum and dated the 16th day of July 1860.
  • Hand-written biographical account of Robert Fry who married Jane Parsons of Wellington in 1828.
  • Brief history of Woodgate Farm.
  • Watercolour of Woodgate house, dated July 1932.
  • Watercolour of Spiceland Meeting House near Wellington.
  • Printed sale catalogue for Woodgate, 1966.
  • Wedding photograph 1904
  • Various hand-written family trees

Samuel Metford left England for the United States when just 24 years old. He became an American citizen and worked there for about ten years before returning to settle in Lancashire but he returned to the United States in 1865 for a couple of years before finally returning home to his native Somerset. Metford had no children (his wife became mentally ill shortly after their marriage) but he adopted a son within the Quaker community in the north of England. He died in 1896 in his 86th year.

Item Ref. 5750

Size: silhouettes, 248 x 192mm (9¾ x 7½") and smaller