John Harrison of Walworth Castle

Samuel Shelley


Based in Newcastle in the north of England, John Harrison was a merchant so he may well have had ready access to imported silks and fabrics. The import of foreign silks and embroidery was actually banned from 1766 to protect local industries but French silks were considered superior for their quality and their colours so smuggling was rife.

Our John Harrison may not have had any part in this racket but the chicness of his pink and green silk coat and waistcoat stands out. He was clearly successful in his business as in 1775, aged about thirty, he purchased the 12th century Walworth Castle in Darlington for £16,000, an eye-watering amount that equates to over three million pounds in today’s money. When John died in 1819 at the age of 74, the Castle was inherited by his only child, Anne who had by then married General Aylmer.

Painted by the society artist Samuel Shelley, the portrait is housed in the original gold bracelet style frame with the addition of a functional hanging clip. There is slight fading to the facial features and some in-painting along the very bottom edge as can be seen in the image. There is also an edge chip to the underside of the glass at 5 o’clock.

Item Ref. 9063M

Size: framed, 39 x 33mm