Uncle Thomas

Drawn by his Nephew


This fabulous watercolour portrait captures the real essence and character of this elderly gentleman as he strides along, stick in hand, in his top hat, an overcoat tied with string, striped breeches and spats. Thanks to an extensive inscription on the reverse of the painting, the old man’s story has been carefully preserved.

“Uncle Thomas” was actually Thomas Catcott born 11 December 1741 at the Grammar School on Christmas Street in Bristol where his father, the Rev. Alexander Stopford Catcott, was the headmaster. Thomas was the youngest of six children; his eldest brother became the Vicar of Temple Church in Bristol whilst his other brother, George Symes, was a librarian and friend to the tragic poet Thomas Chatterton who committed suicide at the age of seventeen.

Thomas was just eight years old when his father died of a lingering illness. As a young man he worked as a cashier to the Copper Company in Small Street, Bristol. This was probably Harford’s and Bristol Brass and Copper Company, a Quaker-run company which owned copper smelting firms in South Wales. Thomas married Deborah Dickson in 1770 at the age of 29. The couple don’t appear to have had any children as upon his death in August 1828 at the grand age of 87, he left a freehold estate in Fulham “near London” and £4,000 (equating to over £400,000 in today’s money) to his nephew Richard Smith, son of Thomas’s middle sister, Augusta. One wonders whether Thomas was a bit of a miser or just a man of simple tastes!

The profile has been cut out, painted in watercolour and laid on card with a watercolour background and titled at the foot. The age appears to have been subsequently amended though this is hidden within the frame.

The portrait is set in a period giltwood frame with a beaded inner border and an outer piecrust edge. The frame is slightly tarnished along the bottom edge but is otherwise fine. The portrait is also in good condition with just a minor scratch close to the title.

Item Ref. 6705

Size: framed, 284 x 246mm (11¼ x 9⅝")

Provenance: Private Collection