Sophia Maria Jane Bonnell

Provider of Christmas Dinner for the Poor


This portrait shows Sophia Maria Jane Bonnell wearing a sprigged cross-over dress and matching turban style hat trimmed with grey and white feathers.

Jane was born in 1748 and married James Beal Bonnell of Pelling Place in Old Windsor. The couple had no surviving children and Jane was widowed in 1815. Her widowhood lasted 26 years and she was 93 when The Gentleman’s Magazine announced her death in March 1841. She bequeathed Pelling Place to her friend and companion Mary Anne Harvey who subsequently added Bonnell to her surname. Jane also left £10 a year “for a dinner every Christmas Day to as many poor men and women as that sum will furnish” to be served at the Fox Public House. In addition to “fine Sirloin” and “good Plum Pudding” her guests were to be served strong beer – “each man to have one quart and each woman to have one pint”. Her legacy lives on even today though the actual serving of Christmas dinner ceased in 1965.

George Romney’s full-length portrait of Jane, painted in 1779-80, hangs in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

The portrait is housed in a gold frame that is chased along the edges and glazed on the reverse to reveal plaited hair surmounted with an ivory plaque within a gold surround that is painted with her name. The portrait has faded a bit but remains in good condition. There is also some bloom on the hairwork though the painted plaque is unaffected.

Item Ref. 5833

Size: 55 x 39mm

Provenance: By family descent